Two items from American media that give an insightful and surprising look at two Canadian traits: how we talk and how we teach.

First, from the New York Times: 

HAL 9000, the seemingly omniscient computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” was the film’s most expressive and emotional figure, and made a lasting impression on our collective imagination. …

The story of the creation of HAL’s performance — the result of a last-minute collaboration between the idiosyncratic director Stanley Kubrick and the veteran Canadian actor Douglas Rain — has been somewhat lost in the 50 years since the film’s release in April 1968. As has its impact: Artificial intelligence has borrowed from the HAL persona, and now, unwittingly, a slight hint of Canadianness resides in our phones and interactive devices. …

As the University of Toronto linguistics professor Jack Chambers explained: “You have to have a computer that sounds like he’s from nowhere, or, rather, from no specific place. Standard Canadian English sounds ‘normal’ — that’s why Canadians are well received in the United States as anchormen and reporters, because the vowels don’t give away the region they come from.”

 

Also this week, from the PBS Newshour, a story that might be surprising to Canadians, given that analyses of our education system will typically be devoted to shortcomings and insufficient funding:

In Canadian public schools, the children of new immigrants do as well as native-born children within three years of arriving. There kids don’t just get language and academic support; their home cultures are celebrated as they are integrated into classes. And strong social services and healthy education funding help too. Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week reports.