The five most widely-spoken non-official languages are Chinese (the home language of 2.6% of Canadians), Punjabi (0.8%), Spanish (0.7%), Italian (0.6%), and Arabic (0.5%). Aboriginal languages, many of which are unique to Canada, are spoken by less than one percent of the population, and are mostly in decline.
|Note that percentages add up to more than 100% because some people speak two or more languages at home.|
The following are the top twenty languages spoken in Canada, shown as a percentage of total single responses (just over 98% of Canadians use a single language as their "home language", and slightly under 2% use more than one language at home):
The following table details the population of each province and territory by language spoken most often in the home (“Home language”).
|Province/Territory||Total population||English||%||French||%||Other languages||%|
In 2006, just under 20.6 million Canadians spoke English at home. English is the major language in all provinces except Quebec, where it is the preferred language of only 10.5% of the population. Only 3.6% of Canada's English-speaking population resides in Quebec--mostly in Montreal.
In addition to francophones of French-Canadian and Acadian origin, many francophones of Haiti, France, Belgium, Morocco, Lebanon and Switzerland have emigrated to Quebec since the early 1960s. As a result of this wave of immigration and the assimilation of many earlier generations of non-francophone immigrants (Irish, English, Italian, Portuguese, etc.), Canadian-born francophones of Quebec are of diverse ethnic origin. Five francophone Premiers of Quebec have been of British ethnic origin, as defined by Statistics Canada: John Jones Ross, Edmund James Flynn, Daniel Johnson, Sr., Pierre-Marc Johnson and Daniel Johnson, Jr.
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).
Knowledge of each of the official languages is nearly universal in the parts of the country where it predominates, but relatively rare in the part where it is not predominant. The statistics reveal a significant division between language knowledge in Quebec and in the Rest of Canada.
|Rest of Canada||7.1%||85.1%||5.7%|
Outside Quebec, almost 99% of Canadians know how to speak English, but only about 10% know how to speak French. Within Quebec, the situation is reversed: about 95% of Quebec residents speak French, but only about 37% can conduct a conversation in English.
Thus, even though most Quebecers are unilingual, a majority of bilingual Canadians come from the province.
The following are the top twenty-five aboriginal languages spoken in Canada.
|Aboriginal language||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|
Scottish Gaelic was spoken by many immigrants who settled in the Maritimes. 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.
While the language 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.
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.
Also the use of the Welsh is found in Newfoundland from previous Welsh settlement since the 17th century from Wales where it is the country's co-official language. Also there was an influx of Patagonian Welsh from Argentina settled in Canada after the 1982 Falkland Islands War when Great Britain successfully ousted Argentine troops from the disputed British colony with Argentina. About 1,000 fluent speakers of Welsh are found in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but Welsh-Argentines are fluent in Spanish as well in English.
A unique form of Canadian French which incorporates not only distinctly Canadian phrases but also nautical terms, English loan words, linguistic featues found only in older forms of French as well as ones found in the Maritime English dialect.
Canada is also home to 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 Poland, Austria-Hungary, 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 Bungee language (also known as Bungy, Bungie, Bungay, and as the Red River Dialect) is a dialect of English which evolved within the Prairie Metis 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.
Michif (also known as Mitchif, Mechif, Michif-Cree, Métif, Métchif and French Cree) is a mixed language which evolved within the Prairie Metis 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 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.
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 "quest que c'est ca?" (what is that?) or words like "arrete" (stop) can alternate with their English counterparts. This phenomena 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 English Canadian 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 unmistakeable variety of French, which is native to the Maritimes (particularly New Brunswick which has a large Acadian population).
Mother tongue: The language spoken by the mother or the person responsible for taking care of the child is the most basic measure of a population's language. However, with the high number of mixed francophone-anglophone marriages and the reality of bilingualism and trilingualism, this description does not allow to fully determine the real linguistic portrait of Canada. It is, however, still essential, for example in order to calculate the assimilation rate.
Home language: This is the language most often spoken at home. This descriptor has the advantage of pointing out the current usage of languages. It however fails to describe the language that is most spoken at work, which may be a different language.
Knowledge of Official Languages: This measure describes which of the two official languages of Canada a person can speak informally. This relies on the person's own evaluation of his/her linguistic competence and can prove misleading. It was developed by Statistics Canada.
First Official Language Spoken: This is a composite measure of mother tongue, home language and knowledge of official language. It was developed by Statistics Canada.
Official language minority: Based on first official language learned, but placing half of the people equally proficient in both English and French into each linguistic community; it is used by the Canadian government to define English- and French-speaking communities in order to gauge demand for minority language services in a region.
English and French have equal status in federal courts, Parliament, 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.
For example, in Alberta, English and French are both official languages of debate in the Legislative Assembly however there is no requirement that laws (invariably drafted solely in English) be translated into French. French can be used in some lower courts, education is offered in both languages, but the bureaucracy functions almost solely in English. Alberta is therefore thought of an officially English province. Ontario and Manitoba are similar but allow for more services in French at the local level.
The official languages are:
In the case of New Brunswick, this means something close to 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.
For example, NWT residents have the right to use any of the territory's eleven official languages in a territorial court and in debates and proceedings of the legislature. However, laws are legally binding only in their French and English versions, and the government only publishes laws and other documents in the territory's other official languages when asked by the legislature. Furthermore, access to services in any language is limited to institutions and circumstances where there is significant demand for that language or where it is reasonable to expect it given the nature of the services requested. In reality, this means that English language services are universally available and there is no guarantee that other languages, including French, will be used by any particular government service except for the courts.