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|Languages of Canada|
|Official languages||English (56.9%) and French (21.3%)|
|Indigenous languages||Abenaki, Algonquin, Babine-Witsuwit'en, Beothuk, Blackfoot, Broken Slavey, Bungee, Carrier, Cayuga, Chiac, Chilcotin, Chinook Jargon, Coast Tsimshian, Comox, Cree, Dene Suline, Dogrib, Gwich’in, Haida, Haisla, Halkomelem, Hän, Heiltsuk-Oowekyala, Innu-aimun, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inupiaq, Inuvialuktun, Kaska, Kutenai, Kwak'wala, Labrador Inuit Pidgin French, Malecite-Passamaquoddy, Michif, Mi'kmaq, Mohawk, Munsee, Naskapi, Nicola, Nitinaht, Nlaka'pamuctsin, Nuu-chah-nulth, Nuxálk, Ojibwe, Okanagan, Oneida, Onondaga, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Saanich, Saulteaux, Sekani, Seneca, Sháshíshálh, Shuswap, Slavey, Squamish, St'at'imcets, Tagish, Tahltan, Tlingit, Tsuut’ina, Tuscarora, Tutchone, Western Abnaki, Wyandot|
|Minority languages||Spanish (758,280), Italian (660,945), German (622,650), Chinese, n.o.s.[nb 1] 1 (472,080), Punjabi (456,090), Cantonese (434,720), Arabic (365,085), Dutch (350,470), Tagalog (Pilipino/Filipino) (324,120), Hindi (299,600), Mandarin (281,840), Portuguese (274,670), Polish (242,885), Urdu (208,125), Russian (191,520), Ukrainian (174,160), Greek (157,385), Persian (Farsi)(154,385), Tamil (138,675), Korean (133,800) 2006 Census|
|Sign languages||American Sign Language,|
Maritime Sign Language,
Quebec Sign Language
|Common keyboard layouts|
A multitude of languages are used in Canada. According to the 2011 census, English and French are the mother tongues of 56.9% and 21.3% of Canadians respectively. However, marking the steady decline in use of the French language by Canadians and new immigrants, the same census paints a gloomier picture of the survival of French as a second language for the country. Over 85% of Canadians have working knowledge of English while only 30.1% have a working knowledge of French. This is partly due to many French-speaking Canadians learning English and to more immigrants choosing to learn English as their second language rather than French. The steady decline in use of the French language led to the highly controversial Official Languages Act of 1969. The act was introduced to enforce use of the French language in an effort to preserve the culture of French Canadians who played a significant role in Canadian heritage. Under the Canadian Constitution, the federal government has both English and French as its official languages in respect of all government services, including the courts, and all federal legislation is enacted bilingually. New Brunswick is the only Canadian province that has both English and French as its official languages to the same extent, with constitutional entrenchment. Quebec's official language is French, although in that province, the Constitution requires that all legislation be enacted in both French and English, and court proceedings may be conducted in either language. Similar constitutional protections are in place in Manitoba.
Many Canadians believe that the relationship between the English and French languages is the central or defining aspect of the Canadian experience. Canada's Official Languages Commissioner (the federal government official charged with monitoring the two languages) has stated, "[I]n the same way that race is at the core of what it means to be American and at the core of an American experience and class is at the core of British experience, I think that language is at the core of Canadian experience."
To assist in more accurately monitoring the two official languages, Canada's census collects a number of demolinguistic descriptors not enumerated in the censuses of most other countries, including home language, mother tongue, first official language and language of work.
Canada’s linguistic diversity extends beyond the two official languages. "In Canada, 4.7 million people (14.2% of the population) reported speaking a language other than English or French most often at home and 1.9 million people (5.8%) reported speaking such a language on a regular basis as a second language (in addition to their main home language, English or French). In all, 20.0% of Canada's population reported speaking a language other than English or French at home. For roughly 6.4 million people, the other language was an immigrant language, spoken most often or on a regular basis at home, alone or together with English or French whereas for more than 213,000 people, the other language was an Aboriginal language. Finally, the number of people reporting sign languages as the languages spoken at home was nearly 25,000 people (15,000 most often and 9,800 on a regular basis)."[nb 2]
Canada is also home to many indigenous languages. Taken together, these are spoken by less than one percent of the population. About .6% Canadians (or 200,725 people) report an Aboriginal language as their mother tongue.[nb 3]
The following table details the population of each province and territory, with summary national totals, by language spoken most often in the home as reported in the Canada 2011 Census (“Home language”).
|Province/Territory||Total population||English||%||French||%||Other languages||%||Official language(s)|
|Ontario||12,722,065||10,044,810||78.95%||284,120||2.23%||1,827,870||14.36%||English (de facto)|
|British Columbia||4,356,205||3,506,600||80.49%||16,685||0.38%||670,095||15.38%||English (de facto)|
|Alberta||3,610,185||3,095,255||85.73%||24,690||0.68%||379,550||10.51%||English (de facto)|
|Manitoba||1,193,095||1,007,325||84.42%||17,950||1.5%||125,285||10.5%||English and French|
|Saskatchewan||1,018,310||938,170||92.13%||4,295||0.42%||59,240||5.81%||English and French (English predominates)|
|Nova Scotia||910,620||868,765||95.40%||15,940||1.75%||18,510||2.03%||English (de facto)|
|New Brunswick||739,895||512,115||69.21%||209,885||28.36%||9,310||1.25%||English, French|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||509,950||502,475||98.53%||1145||0.22%||5,000||0.98%||English (de facto)|
|Prince Edward Island||138,435||132,200||95.49%||2,465||1.78%||2,925||2.11%||English (de facto)|
|Northwest Territories||41,040||36,485||88.9%||555||1.35%||3,620||8.8%||Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, Tłįchǫ|
|Nunavut||31,765||14,440||45.45%||245||0.77%||16,820||52.95%||Inuit language (Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun), English, French|
Source: Statistics Canada, 2011 Census Population by language spoken most often and regularly at home, age groups (total), for Canada, provinces and territories. (Figures reflect single responses.).
The percentage of the population speaking English, French or both languages most often at home has declined since 1986; the decline has been greatest for French. The proportion of the population who speak neither English nor French in the home has increased. Geographically, this trend remains constant, as usage of English and French have declined in both English and French speaking regions of the country, but French has declined more rapidly both inside and outside of Quebec. The table below shows the percentage of the total Canadian population who speak Canada's official languages most often at home from 1971-2006.
In 2011, just under 21.5 million Canadians, representing 65% of the population, spoke English at home. English is the major language everywhere in Canada except Quebec, and most Canadians (85%) can speak English. While English is not the preferred language in Quebec, 36.1% of Québécois can speak English. Nationally, Francophones are five times more likely to speak English than Anglophones are to speak French - 44% and 9% respectively. Only 3.2% of Canada's English-speaking population resides in Quebec—mostly in Montreal.[nb 4]
More Canadians know how to speak English than speak it at home.[nb 5]
In 2011, just over 6.8 million Canadians spoke French at home. Of these, about 6.2 million or 91.5% resided in Quebec. Outside Quebec, the largest French-speaking populations are found in New Brunswick (which is home to 3.1% of Canada’s Francophones) and Ontario (4.2%, residing primarily in the eastern and northeastern parts of the province and in Toronto & Ottawa). Overall, 70% of Canadians cannot speak French.[nb 6] Smaller indigenous French-speaking communities exist in some other provinces. For example, a vestigial community exists on Newfoundland's Port au Port Peninsula; a remnant of the "French Shore" along the island's west coast.
The percentage of the population who speak French both by mother tongue and home language has decreased over the past three decades. Whereas the number of those who speak English at home is higher than the number of people whose mother tongue is English, the opposite is true for Francophones. There are fewer people who speak French at home, than learned French after birth.
Ethnic diversity is growing in French Canada, but still lags behind the English-speaking parts of the country. In 2006, 91.5% of Quebecers considered themselves to be of either "French" or "Canadian" origin. As a result of the growth in immigration, since the 1970s, from countries in which French is a widely used language, 3.4% of Quebecers indicated that they were of Haitian, Belgian, Swiss, Lebanese or Moroccan origin. Other groups of non-francophone immigrants (Irish Catholics, Italian, Portuguese, etc.) have also assimilated into French over the generations. The Irish, who started arriving in large numbers in Quebec in the 1830s, were the first such group, which explains why it has been possible for Quebec to have had five premiers of Anglo-Irish ethnic origin: John Jones Ross (1884–87), Edmund James Flynn (1896–97), Daniel Johnson, Sr. (1966–68), Pierre-Marc Johnson (1985) and Daniel Johnson, Jr. (1994).
The assimilation of Francophones outside Quebec into the English-Canadian society means that outside Quebec, over one million Canadians who claim English as their mother tongue are of French ethnic origin. (1991 Census, ethnic origin and mother tongue, by province).
According to the 2011 census, 98.2% of Canadian residents have knowledge of one or both of the country’s two official languages, Between 2006 and 2011, the number of persons who reported being able to conduct a conversation in both of Canada's official languages increased by nearly 350,000 to 5.8 million. The bilingualism rate of the Canadian population edged up from 17.4% in 2006 to 17.5% in 2011. This growth of English-French bilingualism in Canada was mainly due to the increased number of Quebecers who reported being able to conduct a conversation in English and French.
Bilingualism with regard to nonofficial languages also increased, most individuals speaking English plus an immigrant language such as Punjabi or Mandarin.
|Year||# Bilingual Canadians||% Quebec||% Rest of Canada||Total # Canadians||% Quebec||% Rest of Canada|
According to the 2011 census 94.3% of Quebecers have knowledge of French, and 47.2% have knowledge of English. Bilingualism (of the two official languages) is largely limited to Quebec itself, and to a strip of territory sometimes referred to as the “bilingual belt”, that stretches east from Quebec into northern New Brunswick and west into parts of Ottawa and northeastern Ontario. 85% of bilingual Canadians live within Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. A majority of all bilingual Canadians, (57.4%) are themselves Quebecers, and a high percentage of the bilingual population in the rest of Canada resides in close proximity to the Quebec border.
Similarly, the rate of bilingualism in Quebec has risen higher, and more quickly than in the rest of Canada. In Quebec the rate of bilingualism has increased from 26% of the population being able to speak English and French in 1951 to 42.5% in 2011. As of 2011, in the rest of Canada (excluding Quebec) the rate of bilingualism was 7.5%.
It is very uncommon for Canadians to be capable of speaking only the minority official language of their region (French outside of Quebec or English in Quebec). Only 1.5% of Canadians are able to speak only the minority official language, and of these most (90%) live in the bilingual belt.
As the table below shows, rates of bilingualism are much higher among individuals who belong to the linguistic minority group for their region of Canada, than among members of the local linguistic majority. For example, within Quebec around 37% of bilingual Canadians are Francophones, whereas Francophones only represent 4.5% of the population outside of Quebec.
|Rest of Canada||7.1%||85.1%||5.7%|
The language continuity index represents the relationship between the number of people who speak French most often at home and the number for whom French is their mother tongue. A continuity index of less than one indicates that French has more losses than gains – that more people with French as a mother tongue speak another language at home. Outside of Quebec, New Brunswick has the highest French language continuity ratio. British Columbia and Saskatchewan have the lowest French language continuity ratio and thus the lowest retention of French. From 1971 to 2011 the overall ratio for French language continuity outside of Quebec declined from 0.73 to 0.45. Declines were the greatest for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.
|Prince Edward Island||0.60||0.64||0.53||0.53||0.48||0.49||0.47|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||0.63||0.72||0.47||0.42||0.42||0.36||0.46|
Canada is home to a rich variety of indigenous languages that are spoken nowhere else. There are 11 Aboriginal language groups in Canada, made up of more than 65 distinct languages and dialects. Of these, only Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway have a large enough population of fluent speakers to be considered viable to survive in the long term. Prior to colonization, multilingualism was common among indigenous bands, which were often temporary and nomadic. However the reserve system has created more permanent stationary bands, which have generally selected only one of their various ancestral languages to try to preserve in the face of increasing Anglicization.
Two of Canada's territories give official status to native languages. In Nunavut, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun are official languages alongside the national languages of English and French, and Inuktitut is a common vehicular language in territorial government. In the Northwest Territories, the Official Languages Act declares that there are eleven different languages: Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tłįchǫ. Besides English and French, these languages are not vehicular in government; official status entitles citizens to receive services in them on request and to deal with the government in them.
According to the 2011 census, less than one percent of Canadians (213,485) reported an Aboriginal language as their mother tongue, and less than one percent of Canadians (132,920) reported an Aboriginal language as their home language.
|Aboriginal language dialects||No. of speakers||Mother tongue||Home language|
|Siouan languages (Dakota/Sioux)||6,495||5,585||3,780|
|Tłįchǫ or Dogrib||2,645||2,015||1,110|
|North Slave (Hare)||1,235||650||650|
In Canada as elsewhere in the world of European colonization, the frontier of European exploration and settlement tended to be a linguistically diverse and fluid place, as cultures using different languages met and interacted. The need for a common means of communication between the indigenous inhabitants and new arrivals for the purposes of trade and (in some cases) intermarriage led to the development of hybrid languages. These languages tended to be highly localized, were often spoken by only a small number of individuals who were frequently capable of speaking another language, and often persisted only briefly, before being wiped out by the arrival of a large population of permanent settlers, speaking either English or French.
Michif (also known as Mitchif, Mechif, Michif-Cree, Métif, Métchif and French Cree) is a mixed language which evolved within the Prairie Métis community. It is based on elements of Cree, Ojibwa, Assiniboine and French. Michif is today spoken by less than 1,000 individuals in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota. At its peak, around 1900, Michif was understood by perhaps three times this number.
In the 16th century, Algonquian-Basque pidgin, a Basque pidgin developed in coastal areas along the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Strait of Belle Isle as the result of contact between Basque whalers and local Algonquian peoples.
In British Columbia, Yukon and throughout the Pacific Northwest a pidgin language known as the Chinook Jargon emerged in the early 19th century which was a combination of Chinookan, Nootka, Chehalis, French and English, with a smattering of words from other languages including Hawaiian and Spanish. Certain words and expressions remain current in local use, such as skookum, tyee and saltchuck, while a few have become part of worldwide English ("high mucketymuck" or "high muckamuck" for a high-ranking and perhaps self-important official).
Maritime Sign Language is a language from the BANZSL Language Family. It was used to educate the deaf in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island before ASL became available in the mid-20th century. It is still remembered by some elderly people, but moribund.
The major sign language of the deaf in Quebec and other major Canadian cities is Quebec Sign Language (LSQ). In some major cities, American Sign Language is also used. Although approximately 10% of the population of Quebec is deaf or hard-of-hearing, it is estimated that only 50,000 to 60,000 children use LSQ as their native language.
Inuit Sign Language (also called Inuktitut Sign Language or Eskimo Sign Language) is used by the deaf Inuit peoples in northern Canadian territories and other Arctic Circle countries. Little is known about its history or signers.
Scottish Gaelic was spoken by many immigrants who settled in The Maritimes and Glengarry County, Ontario. Scottish Gaelic was spoken predominantly in New Brunswick's Restigouche River valley, central and southeastern Prince Edward Island, and across the whole of northern Nova Scotia—particularly Cape Breton Island and a few speakers in Ontario primarily Glengarry County.
While the Canadian Gaelic dialect has mostly disappeared, regional pockets persist. These are mostly centred on families deeply committed to their Celtic traditions. Nova Scotia currently has 500-1000 fluent speakers, mostly in northwestern Cape Breton Island.
There have been attempts in Nova Scotia to institute Gaelic immersion on the model of French immersion. As well, formal post-secondary studies in Gaelic language and culture are available through St. Francis Xavier University, Saint Mary's University, and the Gaelic College.
A portmanteau language which is said to combine English and French syntax, grammar and lexicons to form a unique interlanguage, sometimes ascribed to mandatory basic French education in the Canadian anglophone school systems. While many Canadians are barely conversant in French they will often borrow French words into their sentences. Simple words and phrases like "c'est quoi ça?" (what is that?) or words like "arrête" (stop) can alternate with their English counterparts. This phenomenon is more common in the eastern half of the country where there is a greater density of Francophone populations. Franglais can also refer to the supposed degradation of the French language thanks to the overwhelming impact Canadian English has on the country's Francophone inhabitants, though many linguists would argue that while English vocabulary can be freely borrowed as a stylistic device, the grammar of French has been resistant to influences from English and the same conservatism holds true in Canadian English grammar, even in Quebec City.
One interesting example of is Chiac, popularly a combination of Acadian French and Canadian English, but actually an unmistakable variety of French, which is native to the Maritimes (particularly New Brunswick which has a large Acadian population).
Ottawa Valley Twang is the accent, sometimes referred to as a dialect of English, that is spoken in the Ottawa Valley, in Ontario. The Ottawa Valley is considered to be a linguistic enclave within Ontario.
Some of the original immigrants to Newfoundland were native speakers of Irish, who passed on a version of their language to their children. As a result, Newfoundland became the only place outside Europe to have its own Irish dialect. Newfoundland was also the only place outside Europe to have its own distinct name in Irish: Talamh an Éisc, which means 'land of the fish'. The Irish language is now extinct in Newfoundland.
Some Welsh is found in Newfoundland. In part, this is as a result of Welsh settlement since the 17th century. Also there was an influx of about 1,000 Patagonian Welsh migrated to Canada from Argentina after the 1982 Falklands War. Welsh-Argentines are fluent in Spanish as well as English and Welsh.
Acadian French is a unique form of Canadian French which incorporates not only distinctly Canadian phrases but also nautical terms, English loanwords, linguistic features found only in older forms of French as well as ones found in the Maritimer English dialect.
Canada is also home to Canadian Ukrainian, a distinct dialect of the Ukrainian language, spoken mostly in Western Canada by the descendants of first two waves of Ukrainian settlement in Canada who developed in a degree of isolation from their cousins in what was then Austria-Hungary, the Russian Empire, Poland, and the Soviet Union.
Canada's Doukhobor community, especially in Grand Forks and Castlegar, British Columbia, has kept its distinct dialect of Russian. It has a lot in common with South Russian dialects, showing some common features with Ukrainian. This dialect's versions are becoming extinct in their home regions of Georgia and Russia where the Doukhobors have split into smaller groups.
The meagerly documented Bungi Creole (also known as Bungy, Bungie, Bungay, and as the Red River Dialect) is a dialect of English which evolved within the Prairie Métis community. It is influenced by Cree and Scots Gaelic. Bungee was spoken in the Red River area of Manitoba. In 1989, at the time of the only academic study ever undertaken on the language, only six speakers of Bungee were known to still be alive.
English and French have equal status in federal courts, Parliament of Canada, and in all federal institutions.
The public has the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French. Immigrants who are applying for Canadian citizenship must normally be able to speak either English or French.
Canada's Official Languages Act, first adopted in 1969 and updated in 1988, gives English and French equal status throughout federal institutions.
New Brunswick and Canada's three territories have all given official status to more than one language. In the case of New Brunswick, this means perfect equality. In the other cases, the recognition sometimes amounts to a formal recognition of official languages, but limited services in official languages other than English.
The official languages are:
Until 1969, Quebec was the only officially bilingual province in Canada and most public institutions functioned in both languages. English was also used in the legislature, government commissions and courts. With the adoption of the Charter of the French Language (also known as "Bill 101") by Quebec's National Assembly in August 1977, however, French became Quebec's sole official language. However, the Charter of the French Language enumerates a defined set of language rights for the English language and for aboriginal languages, and government services are available, to certain citizens and in certain regions, in English. As well, a series of court decisions have forced the Quebec government to increase its English-language services beyond those provided for under the original terms of the Charter of the French Language. Regional institutions in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec offer services in Inuktitut and Cree.
Most provinces have laws that make either English or both English and French the official language(s) of the legislature and the courts, but may also have separate policies in regards to education and the bureaucracy.
For example, in Alberta, English and French are both official languages of debate in the Legislative Assembly, but laws are drafted solely in English and there is no legal requirement that they be translated into French. French can be used in some lower courts and education is offered in both languages, but the bureaucracy functions almost solely in English. Therefore, although Alberta is not officially an English-only province, English has a higher de facto status than French. Ontario and Manitoba are similar but allow for more services in French at the local level.
|First language||Population (2011)||% of total population (2011)||Population (2006)||% of total population (2006)||Notes|
|Single language responses||32,481,635||98.1%||30,848,270||98.7%|
|Chinese, n.o.s.[nb 1]||425,210||1.3%||456,705||1.5%|
|Tagalog (Pilipino, Filipino)||327,445||1%||235,615||0.8%|
|Cree, n.o.s.[nb 1]||77,900||0.2%||78,855||0.3%||In the 2006 Census, this language was referred to simply as 'Cree'.|
|Hungarian||67,920||0.2%||73,335||0.2%||The majority of Hungarian speakers in Canada live in Ontario. A community of Hungarian speakers is found within a part of Windsor, Ontario.|
|Inuktitut||33,500||0.1%||32,015||0.1%||In the 2006 Census, this language was referred to as 'Inuktitut, n.i.e.'.[nb 7]|
|Semitic languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||16,970||0.05%||N/A||N/A|
|Niger–Congo languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||14,075||0.04%||N/A||N/A|
|Innu/Montagnais||10,785||0.03%||10,975||0.04%||In the 2006 Census, this language was referred to as 'Montagnais-Naskapi'.|
|African languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||9,125||0.03%||N/A||N/A|
|Bantu languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||7,150||0.02%||N/A||N/A|
|Berber languages (Kabyle)||5,855||0.02%||N/A||N/A|
|Indo-Iranian languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||5,255||0.02%||N/A||N/A|
|Sino-Tibetan languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||4,360||0.01%||N/A||N/A|
|Sign languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||3,815||0.01%||N/A||N/A|
|Slavic languages, n.i.e.[nb 7]||3,630||0.01%||N/A||N/A|
|Siouan languages (Dakota/Sioux)||N/A||N/A||5,585||0.02%|
|North Slave (Hare)||N/A||N/A||1,065||0.003%|
|Multiple language responses||639,540||1.9%||392,760||1.3%|
|English and French||144,685||0.4%||98,630||0.3%|
|English and a non-official language||396,330||1.2%||240,005||0.8%|
|French and a non-official language||74,430||0.2%||43,335||0.1%|
|English, French, and a non-official language||24,095||0.07%||10,790||0.03%|
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