Speaking Newfinese: Land Of A 1,000 Dialects (Give Or Take A Few)

NL may be one of the most homogeneous places on earth both linguistically (98% of residents speak English as their mother tongue) and culturally (roughly 95% can trace their ancestral roots to The British Isles). 

We are also home to the greatest regional diversity of dialects in all of North America. This is largely due to our isolation as an island colony until joining Canada in 1949. 

Another contributing factor to our dialect diversity is that NL was predominately a fishing economy well into the 20th Century. Many fishermen that came to these very shores settled in small isolated coves that were also divided along religious lines (Catholic versus Protestant).

NL was one of the first regions in the Western World to be visited and settled by Europeans beginning in the 1500’s. With over 400 years of history, the Standard English was left unfettered to evolve linguistically into what is known today as Newfoundland English.

Historically, Newfoundland English was first acknowledged as a distinct dialect in the late 18th century when George Cartwright printed the Newfoundland words glossary. 

Today, we even have our very own Dictionary of Newfoundland English. For additional tutorials in Newfinese, why not visit the online version below.

Many of our dialects incorporate elements originating from West County England and SE Ireland. While some of our dialects combine elements from both. 

I discovered just how intrinsically connected NL is to these regions while touring Ireland. Stopping into the Waterford Heritage & Agricultural Museum there was a whole exhibition on their connection to NL. I thought this was pretty cool!

So on your travels throughout NL, you will immediately recognize a unique linguistic variation in our consonants. 

For example:

3 distinct pronunciations of the letter l 

Dropping and adding of the initial h 

Pronouncing th as t or d and dropping the r

The NL English spoken also contains many distinct linguistic features including vocabulary, meanings, grammar and everyday expressions.

Here are a few of our favourites:

“Best kind, b’y. Ow’s ya gettin’ on?” = I am feeling great. How are you?

“De road is like da bottle” = It is slippery and dangerous to be driving/walking.

“Put da side back in her” = Close the door it is cold outside.

“Da place is magotty wit skin” = There are alot of attractive people here.

“Your cracked” = You are crazy/foolish.

Sounds confusing right? Well not really…And to get you on your way, download the free Newfoundlander App belowa funny Newfoundland translator and dialect soundboard that will have you speaking Newfinese in minutes. This way your next journey to NL will not be lost in translation!

Another wonderful resource keeping our linguistic culture alive is an online interactive device below (created by the Linguistic Department at Memorial University) that takes you on a virtual tour of our province. Here you will experience the geographical and social variations of Newfoundland English.

map of British Isles including England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Image Via NDLA Education
Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a cultural heritage travel experiential learning experience
Click On Image To Visit Site
illustrated map of Waterford, Ireland and Newfoundland historical and cultural connection, an experiential travel fact
the Newfoundlander linguistic dialect translation app, a funny and humorous cultural and language learning holiday
Click On Image To Learn More
Newfoundland outport image with red shed, green rolling hills, boats, flakes and stages, a wellness travel experiential and cultural learning vacation
Click On Image To Visit Site
About Us
At Experience NL, we are planners of experiences…not simply vacations.

These are compelling, personally tailored getaways for engaged, curious travelers seeking life-enhancing opportunities.

Contact Matthew or John to start planning your most exceptional journey!

Sitting in a field at Spillars Cove, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, Canada with ocean and cliffs in the background is Matthew, Experiential Travel Planner with Experience Newfoundland and Labrador Travel Agency
Matthew Barrett, Experiential Travel Consultant
Standing next to a Leprechaun at Dublin City Center in Ireland is John, Experiential Travel Planner with Experience Newfoundland and Labrador Travel Agency
John Keough, Owner & Experiential Travel Consultant
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