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Statistics on Languages in Canada

2001 Census Statistics on Languages in Canada

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Note 10/31/12: For statistics on languages spoken in Canada from the 2011 Census, see What Languages Do Canadians Speak?.

Canada is increasingly becoming a multilingual society according to language statistics from the 2001 Census of Canada. Statistics Canada says that while most people in Canada speak English or French at home, one out of every six reported having a mother tongue other than English or French.

Statistics Canada says that more than 100 languages were reported in the 2001 Census question on mother tongue. Mother tongue is defined by Statistics Canada as the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood. The fastest growth comes in Asian and Middle East language groups.

English and French Languages

According to the 2001 Census, nine out of 10 people in Canada still speak either the English or French languages at home. All the other languages reported as mother tongue are not spoken at home as frequently. Only 10 percent spoke a language other than English or French at home, compared to 18 percent who reported another language as their mother tongue.

The 2001 Census total of anglophones, those who report their mother tongue as English, was 17.5 million, or 59.1 percent of the population of Canada, down from 59.8 percent at the last census in 1996.

The 2001 Census total of francophones, those who report their mother tongue as French, was 6.8 million, or 22.9 percent of the population, down from 23.5 percent in 1996.

Languages Other than English and French

In contrast, the 2001 Census total of allophones, those who report a mother tongue other than English or French, was 5.3 million, or 18 percent of the population, up from 16.6 percent in the 1996 census.

Chinese is the third most common mother tongue in Canada, with the number of people reporting Chinese as their mother tongue at a total of 872,400. That's approximately 2.9 percent of the total population of Canada, up about 0.3 percent since 1996.

The other most common languages reported as mother tongue were

  • Italian
  • German
  • Punjabi
  • Spanish

Aboriginal Languages in Canada

Cree was the Aboriginal language reported as a mother tongue by the highest number of people in Canada at 80,000. The Inuktitut language was claimed as the mother tongue by 29,700 and Ojibway by 23,500.

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