More people in Canada are bilingual than ever before, and Quebec is driving that trend.
New census numbers for language in Canada show bilingualism is at an all-time high, at 18 per cent nationwide. In Quebec, 45 per cent of people declared that they speak both official languages in 2016, up from 42.5 per cent in 2011.
In the rest of Canada, the bilingual rate is a mere 10 per cent, but growing. More people across the country are speaking both official languages.
“In the past, it was Quebec and francophone minorities who drove bilingualism in Canada,” said Émilie Lavoie, a demographer for Statistics Canada. “But for the first time, other language groups are also contributing to it.”
French down, English up
The proportion of native French speakers in Quebec has gone down slightly, from 79.7 per cent of the population to 78.4 per cent.
However, knowledge of French in Quebec hasn’t changed. “The ability to have a conversation in French has remained stable,” Lavoie said.
On the other hand, native English speakers edged up a tiny bit, from 9 to 9.6 per cent, likely due to immigration.
But more Quebecers with immigrant native languages speak French at home (48 per cent) than English (22 per cent).
And more anglos are also speaking French at home: 27.6 per cent. Among francophones, only 9.5 per cent reported speaking English in the house.
Montreal stands out in immigrant languages
Asian languages are the biggest non-official tongues in most of Canada’s big cities. Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Tagalog are most spoken in immigrant homes in Toronto and Vancouver.
But in Montreal, Arabic, Spanish, Italian and Creole dominate, reflecting in part the Quebec government’s preference for immigrants from countries where French is also spoken. Mandarin comes a distant fifth.
Only a small proportion of metropolitan Montreal’s population, 13 per cent, reported a non-official language as their mother tongue. This is less than half of Toronto, where 35.5 per cent of people speak an immigrant mother tongue.
Most people living alone
Quebec stands out from the rest of Canada with the highest proportion of people living alone. A full third of the population live by themselves, compared to 28.2 percent nationwide.
Quebec also has the second-highest percentage of common-law couples, at 40…