“If you wanted to improve your Canadian accent, you would do better to just use your Californian accent.” Such is a notion of James Harbeck, a writer for The Week, who explored the similarities between the two accents in an interesting article he published.
According to him, the Californian accent bears the closest resemblance to the real Canadian accent, even more so than those in cities like Buffalo and Detroit which are closer to the border. While they are in no way completely identical to each other, both accents employ similar deliveries of letter sounds that make them hard to distinguish from one another.
“Let’s start with the words cot and caught. Depending on where you’re from, you might say these words differently - maybe even very differently - or you might say them exactly the same,” explains Harbeck. “If you’re from California or Canada, you’ll say them the same: The distinction between the two vowel sounds has disappeared, and they’ve merged somewhere between the two.”
He continues to say that both Canadians and Californians tend to open up a lot of unused space in the mouth when they speak, allowing for other vowels to be spread out in similar ways:
“For one thing, the vowel in a word such as hat is farther back in the mouth in Canada and California. This is completely different from what you'll hear in places like Buffalo and Detroit. In fact, the way Californians and Canadians say hat is almost exactly the same as the way people from the big Great Lakes cities say hot.”
When it comes to the n sound, Harbeck says Canadians and Californians make a “higher” sound, which makes words like “and” sound a lot more like “end.” Such is a stark difference to the “eeand” sound used in Buffalo.
Harbeck elaborates on a few other similarities, including the pronunciations of words like “bat,” “test,” “bit” and “bet” and the “oo” sound (like in the word “dude”). He has no idea what caused these similarities to arise, especially since both Canada and California are markedly different in terms of geographical location and environment.
“What we do know is that if you get three people, one from Toronto, one from Buffalo, and one from Los Angeles, to stand next to each other and talk to you, you'll know which one is from Buffalo right away, but you might have trouble telling which one is from Toronto and which one is from L.A.”