New Definition of Bilingualism?

The grand project of French-English bilingualism is being eclipsed by the growth of other languages in Canada, new census figures show. Despite decades of effort and oversubscribed French-immersion programs in some districts, a smaller proportion of Canadians outside Quebec are able to speak both of Canada’s official languages. Instead, a new form of bilingualism is taking hold, driven mainly by immigration.” New bilingualism taking hold in Canada. JOE FRIESEN INGRID PERITZ. TORONTO and MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail, Published Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012, 10:27 PM EDT

For the first time in 2011, three language questions (knowledge of official languages, home language and mother tongue) were included on the census questionnaire that was administered to 100% of the population. Statistics Canada has observed changes in patterns of response to both the mother tongue and home language relative to previous censuses. As a result, Canadians appear to have been less inclined to report languages other than English or French as their only mother tongue, and also more inclined to report multiple languages as their mother tongue and as the language used most often at home.

The proportion of Canadians who spoke English and another language was 11.5 per cent in 2011, while English and French are the 3.7 per cent.  In Quebec, 5 per cent spoke French and another language at home. Overall, 17.5 per cent of Canadians can converse in both official languages, but that figure declined too.  A new study shows that since 1996 the percentage of 15- to 19-year-olds outside Quebec who could converse in French declined to 11.4 per cent from 15.2 per cent in 2006. Although the native French speakers are shrinking in numbers the newcomers to Quebec are increasingly embracing French as their main communication route and French immersion programs in Quebec and Ontario are bulging. The 2011 census numbers show that language diversity has been increasing at just half the rate as noted at 2006 census. The largest surge is in Tagalog, the language of Pilipino that grew 64 percent from 2006.

Right now, we’re just becoming more multilingual and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” Prof. James White, University of British Columbia

Does new definition of bilingualism will need to be defined by one of official languages and one of 200 languages spoken?

Toronto by numbers: About 1.8 million people reported speaking an immigrant language at home in Toronto (27.6%), led by Cantonese (8.8 per cent); Punjabi (8 per cent); Chinese (7 per cent); Urdu (5.9 per cent) and Tamil (5.7 per cent).

Related releases:

Metro Toronto release, Oct 25, 2012

Census: Bilingualism surging in Canada … but not necessarily in French and English, Heather Scoffield, Canadian Press | Oct 24, 2012 8:44 AM ET | Last Updated: Oct 24, 2012 10:39 AM ET

Census Release Topics  Released: October 24, 2012

Analysis series


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