Census shows rise of non-official tongues in Canadian homes
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 8:53AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 24, 2012 11:52PM EDT
The nation’s official languages appear to be giving way to other tongues, the latest census data shows, with one in five Canadians speaking a language other than English or French at home.
From Cantonese to Swahili, about 6.6 million people reported speaking a non-official language at home, according to the final installment of Canada’s 2011 census, released by Statistics Canada Wednesday.
More than 200 different languages were identified in the census. Out of those tongues, it was Tagalog -- a Philippine-based language -- that showed the largest increase in popularity.
But while the census results showed a slight decline in the number of English and French speakers, they also indicate that “official” bilingualism rose slightly.
About 5.8 million Canadians reported the ability to converse in both English and French.That gain, however, was slight, rising to 17.5 per cent from 17.4.
Still, the 2011 census appeared to show other languages chipping away at French’s popularity. The number of Canadians who can speak French is up to almost 10 million people, but that number is waning as a proportion of the Canadian population.
Ana Perez-Leroux, a linguistics professor at the University of Toronto, suspects the perception of English-French bilingualism as an asset may be dwindling in Canadian cities.
“Some of the statistics that I have seen suggest that the economic value of being bilingual with French is not so great in English-speaking cities -- in Vancouver, in Toronto. That might be behind it,” she told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
Canada’s previous census, conducted in 2006, showed that the number of people who considered French their first language was only slightly higher than the number of self-identified allophones.
That trend led analysts to surmise that the number of Canadians speaking en francais would continue to decline in the 2011 census.
Those forecasts proved to be partial truths: French experienced some losses but,along with English, it remains one of the most widely used languages in Canada.
Roughly 22 million people reported speaking English often at home
- About 7 million reported speaking French often at home
The French language continues to hold court in Quebec, where about 94.4 per cent of the population reports being able to converse in the language.
Last September, Quebec voted the pro-sovereignty Parti Quebecois into government. On the campaign trail, PQ leader Pauline Marois pledged stricter enforcement of the province’s language laws.
Among other ideas, Marois proposed preventing companies within the province from operating in English and making it compulsory for immigrants to attend a French-language junior college.