Our Home and Native Land

The other day I watched a news report that told of Members of Parliament having to use lyric sheets in order to remember the words. They then tracked down people in the House of Commons and made them sing it on their own without the aid of song sheets. Many of them couldn’t. Politicians who don’t know the words to our national anthem? Absurd! How could this happen? I was completely but not really all that outraged.

At the beginning of school day, after the children enter the classroom and I do attendance (hopefully without anyone saying “testicles”) everyone stands and we sing our national anthem and sit down after a moment of silence. It’s a routine and I often forget it’s significance. I hear kids singing the words wrong all of the time.

Here are the real words:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Here’s what a lot of kids sing:

O Canada!
Our home and nature land!
True parrot love, in all our sons command.
With growing hearts, we see me rise,
The True North strong and the!
From far and while,
O Canada, we stand on car for me.
God keep our land, glorus and free!
O CanaDA! we stand on guard for me!
O CandaDAH! we stand on guard for MEEEEE!

More or less, this is what happens. There are definitely variations, but there are few kids that get every word right, even if the words are posted in the room. Since it’s just part of a routine, the only time it gets truly “taught” is in Kindergarten, or if you are in choir and have to do a Remembrance Day assembly. We don’t take time out of the day to teach the words and meaning of O Canada. When I have my own class, this is something I will change. My kids will know the words. They will know why we sing it and they will belt it out every morning. I decided this the other day.

Then I did some intense introspective reflection and realized I might be part of the problem. Please, let me explain.

We sing O Canada in English, but since we’re Canada and we have two national languages, we sing it in French too. I am not opposed to this at all. Most of the time, schools play a hybrid of the two. I really only have to know the last three lines in French. And the last two lines are the same. It’s convenient. But when a school plays the entire thing in French, I panic, then I mumble sing. But sometimes tiny children are staring at me, listening to what comes out of my mouth. The solution? Sing something that sounds like something close to the actual words. Here are the actual words. Listen to this video if you want to hear the French pronunciation:

Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Here is what I sing (I’ll type it phonetically, because “French” pronunciation changes some things):

O Canada!
Tear err de nose eye yuhh.
Ton fron le send, de fleu on gloria,
Tar ton bra son porlay le pay yuh,
Eel say pour tay la quoi!
Ton histoire eh tune, eh puhPAY-yuh
(Here comes my favourite line)
Day blue blee ahh text dwah!
Eh tah va leh, de fwois tramp-eh
Protejera, no foy eh say no dwois.


I have to go brush up on my French.


17 thoughts on “Our Home and Native Land

  1. How prevalent would you say knowledge of the correct words is at, say, a hockey game? Do they sing O Canada to open hockey games in Canada? In the US, the one venue that seems most likely to know and respect the national anthem is a NASCAR race. I suspect baseball would probably be second and football third. I don’t know if they sing the national anthem before basketball or hockey games; I’ve never seen the start of either that I can recall.

    I admit to being glad we don’t have to know the words to ours in two languages. One thing most people don’t know about ours is that it has four stanzas. You rarely hear more than the first one sung. I couldn’t sing the other three from memory myself. The fourth is the most openly religious of the set.

    • You rarely see the anthems before the vast majority of hockey games in the US because our tv networks don’t make a habit of showing the anthem. This stands in stark contrast to every single hockey game I’ve ever watched on the CBC: as far as I can recall I’ve ALWAYS gotten to see the anthem. It’s great. And Canadian NHL anthem singers tend to be fantastic — better than most big-occasion anthem singers at US sporting events, who often are pop singers who can’t decide what note they want to sing — so it’s always worth hearing.

      • Oh yes, yes. The pop singers who can’t pick a note really bug me. Do all of that you want if you’re the half-time show, but singing the anthem is about the anthem, not about you. If we need to know that you can pack 73 different notes into a single second of a song, we can find you on iTunes.

  2. Two things:

    1)You sing the national anthem in school every morning? There are more than a few American school districts in which people would be horrified if the kids sang the US national anthem every morning. I wish that wasn’t the truth, but it is.

    2)This post reminded me of this classic Calvin & Hobbes:

  3. On the plus side, your parrots are hopefully well treated with all that love from your sons! Taking care of animals is a good thing to learn from your anthem, right?

    I’m going to go stand on a car for Canada, now.

  4. as a bilingual canadian I must admit I giggled at your phonetic lyrics. I was never really taught the english version in school but man was I taught the french! We had to be able to write it word for word in one of my classes. Day blue blee ahh text dwah! is awesome!

  5. We never sang the anthem in school – but it was a private Christian school so I don’t know if I can speak for BC’s policy. But I will say I noticed something interesting running marathons in the US, our southern neighbours whip out their anthem for everything. It’s kind of nice. Though as an aside I do know the English words – the French – not a hope could I do them without the words.

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