Canada’s linguistic make-up is becoming more diverse, as the share of Canadians who speak a language other than French or English at home is increasing.
But the rate of French-English bilingualism in Canada has also never been higher.
These are some of the trends revealed by the latest Statistics Canada release from the 2016 census of the population.
The share of Canadians who speak a non-official language at home has increased significantly since 2011, up 14.5 per cent to 7.6 million.
Nearly 23 per cent of Canadians reported having an “other” mother tongue in 2016, up from 21.3 per cent in 2011. By comparison, 21.3 per cent said that French was their mother tongue — including 78.4 per cent of Quebecers.
Still, no single language other than English or French is spoken at home by more than two per cent of the population.
“We have to be careful in comparing French to 200 other languages,” said Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an assistant director at Statistics Canada. “French isn’t going to be overtaken by another language in the foreseeable future, particularly when English and French are the languages of integration for immigrants.”
The data shows that 69.9 per cent of Canadians who have a non-official language as their mother tongue speak English or French regularly at home, while just 1.9 per cent of Canadians say they cannot hold a conversation in either language.
The most frequently spoken language at home other than English or French was Mandarin, spoken by 641,100 Canadians. It was followed by Cantonese (594,705), Punjabi (568,375), Spanish (553,495), Tagalog (525,375) and Arabic (514,200).
Of the largest non-official languages, Tagalog is the fastest growing. It grew at a rate of 35 per cent since 2011. Arabic was the next fastest growing at 30 per cent.
Languages that arrived in Canada through previous waves of immigration, like Italian, Polish, German and Greek, have decreased since the last census.
2/3 of non-official language speakers live in 3 cities
The census data shows that most speakers of a non-official language can be found in three cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where two-thirds of them reside.
The census metropolitan areas with the fastest rate of growth of non-official languages were Edmonton and Calgary.
The numbers also show the variation in languages from one city to the next.