Show­case: Pos­i­tively Cana­dian

A per­sonal ap­proach to mas­ter­ing English gram­mar, Cana­dian-style

Our Canada - - Features - by Heather Ann Pattullo,

Meet a proud Canuck who was in­spired to pen an en­ter­tain­ing and ef­fec­tive guide to learn­ing and per­fect­ing English, Cana­dian-style!

Ihave loved read­ing from the day I “de­coded” the squig­gles on the page. Bedrid­den for a year at age eight, I dis­cov­ered many book friends—the Anne and Re­becca se­ries, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to name a few. Win­ning an es­say con­test in el­e­men­tary school, and while writ­ing es­says in high school and po­etry in univer­sity, I never dreamed that 60 years later, I’d be writ­ing my own book.

My fa­ther, a com­mer­cial trav­eller—a sales­man for lum­ber mill ma­chin­ery—was clev­erly com­mit­ted to re­ward­ing good grades by tak­ing me with him on trips around the Mar­itimes. Imag­ine how thrilled I was to walk through Anne of Green Gables’ house in Prince Ed­ward Is­land. Most trips ended in Nova Sco­tia, where I spent the sum­mers in Dart­mouth tak­ing day trips to clam­ber over the rocks at Peggy’s Cove. After a trip to Ot­tawa and Mon­treal, I des­per­ately wished I could speak French. Lit­tle did I know that de­sire would be re­al­ized in Grade 12, thanks to a noon-hour French group with our mem­o­rable, ex­u­ber­ant teacher, Aurora Bourque. To this day, when I speak French, I see her ex­pan­sive ges­tures urg­ing on the proper pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Aller! Venir! Descen­dre! Mon­ter!


Re­al­iz­ing my dream of be­com­ing a nurse at the Univer­sity of New Brunswick pre­ceded be­ing mar­ried to my best friend, Gary. We quickly moved to Sep­tÎles, Que., where, work­ing in the hospi­tal there, my French was sorely tested. How­ever, I was soon able to de­liver les bébés and to speak with pa­tients in pass­able French.

In 1971, Gary was hired by the Pa­cific Great Eastern Rail­way and we fi­nally found Squamish, B.C., on a map. In Squamish, as com­pared to north­ern Que­bec, at least we could speak more English. Imag­ine our cha­grin when, after driv­ing 3,471 miles, the first per­son to speak to us in Squamish said, “Par­donez moi, mon­sieur, mais est-ce que…?” Gary, with a wink, whis­pered to me, “I think I made a wrong turn!”

With a love for work­ing in the com­mu­nity, and a dream to teach nurs­ing, I grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia with a Master’s de­gree in adult ed­u­ca­tion in 1992. In 2002, be­cause of my long-term com­mu­nity health ex­pe­ri­ence, I was hired by the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria into my dream job—to teach in the third and fourth years of the bach­e­lor of sci­ence in nurs­ing pro­gram.

Be­ing in the class­room with stu­dents, I no­ticed that hold­ing their in­ter­est was para­mount. In one class, dis­cussing the begin­nings of our health care sys­tem, in­ter­est was wan­ing in a video show­ing how in­stru­men­tal Tommy Dou­glas was when, as pre­mier, he passed uni­ver­sal health care into law in

Saskatchewan. The class came alive when Kiefer Suther­land flashed onto the screen. Whoa! Who knew Kiefer was the grand­son of Tommy Dou­glas? Then, the class lis­tened with rapt at­ten­tion.

The part of my job that I liked least—the hours of mark­ing as­sign­ments—demon­strated that many stu­dent nurses had dif­fi­culty writ­ing. I was sur­prised that they came to third-year univer­sity with such a poor level of gram­mar. Also, many of them, even though hav­ing been born in Canada, knew very lit­tle about their coun­try. From that tid­bit of in­sight, the idea to write some­thing to help stu­dents hone their gram­mar skills—and to do it with all-cana­dian con­tent—was born.


In a writ­ing sem­i­nar I at­tended, we were told that if you want to write a book, you have to write about some­thing which you are pas­sion­ate. One of my pas­sions was def­i­nitely “ev­ery­thing Cana­dian.” As my two chil­dren and six grand­chil­dren will attest, my other pas­sion was en­cour­ag­ing people to use proper English. With a tem­plate in mind, I held a few fo­cus groups in ESL schools in Van­cou­ver. Many stu­dents wanted to know “weird” things that even Cana­di­ans might not know. So, I in­cluded a chap­ter on weird Cana­dian words— such as what a hoodie is called in Saskatchewan— and a chap­ter on id­ioms, which are al­ways dif­fi­cult to learn. As my book idea be­gan to take shape, I cre­ated a dream team, which in­cluded a friend and busi­ness coach who kept my feet to the fire, and an in­dis­pens­able AAA group of As­pir­ing Artists and Au­thors, which met for on­go­ing mu­tual sup­port and in­spi­ra­tion. From th­ese in­volve­ments came the idea of us­ing my friend Jane Crosby’s wa­ter­colour flow­ers in the book, which would help to make it unique, and I know writ­ing er­rors were kept to a min­i­mum be­cause of the scru­tiny of my AAA friends. Gary also rose to the chal­lenge of check­ing re­vi­sions and find­ing pic­tures. My learn­ing curve of un­der­stand­ing the pub­lish­ing world was helped via the pa­tience of Erin, my pub­lish­ing co­or­di­na­tor. Tak­ing more than four months to re­ceive copy­rights for my 64 se­lected pic­tures meant miss­ing the 2016 pub­li­ca­tion date. How­ever, I chose to see this not as an ob­sta­cle but as an op­por­tu­nity to pub­lish in 2017—and to ded­i­cate my book to Canada’s 150th birth­day. I look for­ward to fu­ture travel in Canada, es­pe­cially to the only places I have not yet vis­ited, Yukon and Nu­navut. Bonne Fête,Fête Canada!

Heather’s book takes a friendly, in­for­mal look at Cana­dian his­tory and cul­tural makeup from coast to coast, while of­fer­ing read­ers am­ple op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice and im­prove their English­language skills.

Pos­i­tively Cana­dian: A Fun Guide to Cana­dian Lan­guage, Cul­ture and His­tory by Heather Ann Pattullo is avail­able on ama­ You can view more of Jane Crosby’s beau­ti­ful art­work at

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.