Monday, March 29, 2010

Just Be Canadian (& lose the American accent)!

The other day I was listening to a local Toronto radio station, and a show participant was giving an update. It was an urban program so I wasn’t surprised when the individual began to speak…and out came a Brooklyn/Detroit/Southern U.S. accent.

Now I know the U.S. border is only mere hours away from us here in Toronto, and even closer for those living in Windsor and Niagara…but really. What logical excuse is there for continuously speaking in American ‘twang’ when you were born, bred, raised, and surrounded by Canadians--or at the very least [insert your parent’s origin here]--your entire life?

Yes, there are many born-Canadians with very natural Jamaican accents. Or those who can use Filipino slang, or put on an Indian accent at a moment’s notice. This is understandable, as living in Toronto one might easily grow up in a predominantly Chinese, Somali, or [insert your ethnic group here] community and pick up elements of the culture as a result of who they grew up around.

But who in Toronto has grown up in an African-American community? Are there even any predominantly African-American communities in Toronto/Canada? Probably not. So that leaves 1) music 2) television and 3) wishful thinking that leads these lost Canadian souls to adapt this “preferred” tone of speaking.


Maybe 15 years ago when a Buffalo, NY radio station was Toronto's urban standard, or maybe 20 years ago when Toronto didn’t have the high-profile urban media representation that it does now. The talent and potential has always existed, but I understand that there previously might not have been an alternative to emulate in the absense of our own urban culture.

But it’s 2010. There are plenty of alternatives. In fact, Canadians are making big movements across the board in entertainment: sports, film/television, and music. So, if there are so many accessible Canadian influences…why then do people still choose to latch on to the American one?

Do people living in Los Angeles try to sound like they’re from Chicago? Do those living in Houston try to sound like those from Detroit? Not likely. Because they embrace their differences, they celebrate their unique qualities, and they let it out…naturally.

Have you ever met someone who used the hardest patois, the strongest Trini dialect, or the most serious Nigerian accent…and then behind closed doors they sound about as Canadian as [insert your European friend's name here]? When the day is over and they’re in their comfort zone, that’s when they decide to be natural and just be Canadian. We all know someone like that. Someone you went to elementary school with, back when they knew they were Canadians....and somehow developed another accent in their late teens/early twenties and beyond...

I would be so impressed if the time came when all Canadian entertainers could pick up a microphone (because this is often an issue with those in the public eye) and out came….their natural Canadian-ass voice.

Even the comment “Oh, it just SOUNDS Canadian,” is something that should never come out of a Canadian’s mouth with disdain. Again, I think for years Canadian artists have tried their hardest to “not” sound Canadian. Instead they were trying to sound authentically…? From where? Atlanta? Memphis?

I once overheard someone critiquing a song composed by a Canadian artist, and his response was that he didn't like it because it "sounded" too Canadian. I couldn't help but think, of course it "sounds" Canadian; it "is" Canadian.

I think it’s important that Canadians just BE Canadians. Yes, there are going to be cultural trends coming at you from all over. Friends, family, entertainment, the dreaded and ever-influential BET, and the like…but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your natural self to adapt to someone else’s image of validity.

It’s OK to just be Canadian. Right now, more than ever.

If you’re a rapper, it’s OK to sound like a Canadian rapper, with Canadian-sounding beats. Because if you're a Canadian rapper sounding like a New York rapper...the people in Canada will know you're acting, and the people in New York will really know you're pretending.

I feel that the Canadian rappers who have "made it big" are the ones who really embrace their Canadian-ness and sound natural and confident as a result. The ones who know where they came from, and aren't trying to convince millions of Americans that they are a [insert popular rapper stereotype here].

If you’re a DJ, a radio host, an MC, or someone who holds a mic in their hand….it’s OK to sound like you’re from Brooklin…and I do mean Brooklin, Ontario. It's OK, because chances are you don't live too far from there anyhow.

It’s time to stop fronting, and start accepting that we just are who we are. Canadians need to own up to their culture, especially the growing population born in Canada. Yes, many of our parents were immigrants and we want to keep the culture strong…but it is what it is.

Don’t be afraid to embrace your Canadian identity.

Don't be afraid to build a stronger Canadian identity.

Don’t be afraid to set a new trend: sounding like you’ve always sounded…like when you were a kid and hadn't yet realized it was cool to sound Guyanese, or to sound like you were raised on the streets of Compton like Ricky and DoughBoy (I'm pretty sure that's when a lot of this imitation started)...

It’s OK to just BE Canadian. Let someone else try and imitate our sound. Set it in stone, and work with it. We’re here for a reason, and it’s to establish our own reason for being...not borrow someone else's sound and hope that it doesn't.

Other cultures can't and won't respect us and our products (particularly our urban products), unless we respect ourselves. So just be Canadian! It's so much easier.


  1. luv it! You know living here in the states has put the whole "being Canadian" thing in perspective for me. I come home and actually love the way "Canadians" speak. I don't realize how much I miss it until I'm home. I actually get offended when my parents tell me that I'm starting to sound like an "American." I'll always embrace all that represents Canada.

  2. It is so offensive to my senses when I have to listen to people try and sound American. Or when American's claim that the Canadian accent is similar to theirs! That is complete rubbish. There is not 'a' Canadian accent, just like their isn't an American accent, it varies from place to place and Canada is a helluva lot different sounding than any American accent, thankfully. Why? Mainly, because Canadian's don't talk through their nasal passage way.

    Though, the Canadian news anchors and Harper really don't help others understand the Canadian accent. Harper sounds atrocious when he talks, it is clear he has gone through accent reduction, like anyone worthwhile in the public eye in Canada.

  3. "Urban" people as you call them.., Who speak like gheto trolls, they're douches anyway. Most of them are white kids who think they're black so let's get them to realize that before we even talk about whether they're American or Canadian. Furthermore, I'm a white guy from Niagara area (Haamilton, ON) and I speak essentially the same as any northern state EDUCATED American person. I talk to Americans and Canadians all day on the phone and the major extremes I hear are from Southern folks like in Texas, Arkansas, etc... and Canadians from outside the golden horseshoe area... Even in Toronto and Hamilton there a lot of people speaking with very proper British pronunciation... I've completely lost this attribute to my speech and when I talk to people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, or California I can't really hear a major difference. From how non-white trash people speak here in Hamilton. Often they'll confuse our ecommerce company for being in California because the website lists our address as Hamilton, Ontario, CA so they assume it's Ontario, California. Anyway, urban slang is lame anyway, I personally wish the US would invade Ontario and make us a state. Perhaps then we'd get rid of this corrupt British-based failure of a government and stop the ridiculous taxation we endure.

  4. I'm guilty of speaking in a pseudo-American accent(but certainly not a 'ghetto' sounding one) as well - I'm sorry to say. I'm a 23 year old from Kitchener Ontario, and somewhere along the line I just became ashamed to sound Canadian and tried to cut any 'Canadian-ness' out of my natural dialect and speak in an American intonation. I stopped saying eh, started pronouncing sorry as 'sarry' over 'sorey' (the Canadian way) and changed the pace in which I spoke so it sounded less clipped.

    I'm not sure what lead me to do this - maybe because I always viewed the 'U.S' as a little more important than us so in the back of my mind I thought if I spoke just like them I would gain a sense of superiority. But in the end it just mixed me up over what my national identity actually was... sad. People should just be who they are, and not pressure themselves to be something they're not.