Canada: Half a million Canadians speak Punjabi at home

Punjabi is one of the most widely spoken languages in Canada. This is one of the findings  of the fourth set of Census results  released by Canada Statistics on Wednesday. This Census deals with mother tongue, languages spoken at home and languages known by Canadians.

The report says that besides  English and French, Mandarin and Punjabi were the country’s most widely spoken languages. In 2021, more than half a million Canadians spoke predominantly Mandarin at home and more than half a million spoke Punjabi.

In 2021, one in four Canadians had at least one mother tongue other than English or French, and one in eight Canadians spoke predominantly a language other than English or French at home—both the highest proportions on record.

The number of Canadians who spoke predominantly a South Asian language such as Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi or Malayalam at home grew significantly from 2016 to 2021, an increase fuelled by immigration.

In fact, the growth rate of the population speaking one of these languages was at least eight times larger than that of the overall Canadian population during this period, the report said.

In contrast, there was a decline in the number of Canadians who spoke predominantly certain European languages at home, such as Italian, Polish and Greek.

To understand Canada’s linguistic profile, it is essential to analyse its Census data on languages. This data helps to  understand how Canada’s linguistic profile has changed. It is also helpful for developing and improving programs and services for all Canadians. They are also used in the development, application and administration of various federal and provincial laws, such as the federal Official Languages Act and the Indigenous Languages Act besides other provincial Acts.

The report said that despite the impact  the COVID-19 pandemic has had on arrivals to the country, immigration has continued to enrich Canada’s linguistic diversity.

English and French remain by far the most commonly spoken languages in Canada. More than 9 in 10 Canadians speak one of the two official languages at home at least on a regular basis.

The 2021 Census also found that 4.6 million Canadians speak predominantly a language other than English or French at home. This means  they speak this language most often at home, without speaking other languages equally often.  

These individuals represent 12.7% of the Canadian population, a proportion that has been increasing for 30 years. By comparison, the proportion was 7.7% in 1991, when immigration levels were rising.

In addition, one in four Canadians in 2021—or 9 million people—had a mother tongue other than English or French. This is a record high since the 1901 Census, when a question on mother tongue was first added.

Canada has a rich linguistic diversity. The languages known and spoken here are closely linked to the identity and culture of Canadians and to their relationship with their community. Languages are an integral part of the everyday lives of Canadians—be it in early childhood, at home, at school or at work—and extend beyond the country’s borders into broader cultural and historical contexts.

A recent report estimated that 321 million people around the world spoke French, with half living in Africa.

The vast majority of the Canadian population commonly uses English and French, Canada’s official languages, to communicate and access services. Although both are spoken throughout the country, English is a minority language in Quebec, while French is a minority language in the other provinces and territories, as well as in Canada as a whole.

Indigenous languages existed long before Canada was formed. As the International Decade of Indigenous Languages kicks off, the preservation, vitality and growth of the more than 70 distinct Indigenous languages spoken in the country remain as relevant and important as ever.

Some of the important findings of the report  say  thatEnglish is the first official language spoken by just over three in four Canadians. This proportion increased from 74.8% in 2016 to 75.5% in 2021.

French is the first official language spoken by an increasing number of Canadians, but the proportion fell from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021.

From 2016 to 2021, the number of Canadians who spoke predominantly French at home rose in Quebec, British Columbia and Yukon, but decreased in the other provinces and territories.

The proportion of Canadians who spoke predominantly French at home decreased in all the provinces and territories, except Yukon.

For the first time in the census, the number of people in Quebec whose first official language spoken is English topped 1 million and their proportion of the population rose from 12.0% in 2016 to 13.0% in 2021.

Seven  in 10 English speakers lived on Montréal Island or in Montérégie.

The proportion of bilingual English-French Canadians (18.0%) remained virtually unchanged from 2016.

From 2016 to 2021, the increase in the bilingualism rate in Quebec (from 44.5% to 46.4%) offset the decrease observed outside Quebec (from 9.8% to 9.5%).

In Canada, 4 in 10 people could conduct a conversation in more than one language. This proportion rose from 39.0% in 2016 to 41.2% in 2021. In addition, 1 in 11 could speak three or more languages.

In 2021, one in four Canadians had at least one mother tongue other than English or French, and one in eight Canadians spoke predominantly a language other than English or French at home—both the highest proportions on record.

Among Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, 7 in 10 spoke an official language at home at least on a regular basis.

In 2021, 189,000 people reported having at least one Indigenous mother tongue and 183,000 reported speaking an Indigenous language at home at least on a regular basis. Cree languages and Inuktitut are the main Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.

Among individuals with an Indigenous mother tongue, four out of five spoke that language at home at least on a regular basis, and half spoke it predominantly.

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