Languages spoken in Canada: slow but steady change

August 23, 2017

By Marc Montgomery, Radio Canada International |

The latest information from Canada’s official statistics agency shows continued change in Canada’s linguistic make-up.

Statistics Canada says 93.4 per cent of Canada’s population indicate they speak either English of French ( Canada’s two official languages) on a regular basis.

However, some 7.6 million Canadians now report speaking a language other than English or French at home, an increase of 14.5 per cent over 2011 for a total of just over 22 per cent of the population.

There is also a decline of English and French as a mother tongue in Canada. In 2016, 78.9% of the Canadian population had English or French as their mother tongue, compared with 80.2% in 2011 and 82.4% in 2001.

International immigration is driving linguistic change in Canada, and traditional sources of immigration are also changing.

Those reporting a “European” language being spoken in the home is declining with Italian, Polish, German and Greek reporting declines ranging from a 10.9 per cent decline in Italian, to a 2.3 per cent decline for Greek.

The main immigrant languages spoken in Canada include Mandarin and Cantonese some 1.23 million people, while Punjabi, Spanish (latin America), Tagalog (Philipino), and Arabic each have well over half a million speakers.

Tagalog has shown the most rapid increase at over 35 per cent between 2011 and 2016, followed by Arabic, Persian (Farsi), and Hindu.

There are close to 70 aboriginal languages in Canada, but the overall numbers of speakers is relatively small at around 225,000. Cree is the most common aboriginal language at 84,000 people. Inuktitut is next at 39,000.

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