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Languages in Canada


The linguistic make-up of Canada has been greatly influenced by immigration, which increased the number of Canadians with a non-official language as mother tongue in the short term and led to growth in the Anglophone population in the longer term.

The percentage of Canadians with English mother tongue changed very little between 1951 and 1991 (staying at about 60%). However, in Quebec, Anglophones declined from 14% to 9% of the population.

Canadians with French mother tongue declined from 29% to 24% of the population between 1951 and 1991. In Quebec, their proportion remained fairly stable at just over 80% of the population, while outside Quebec they declined from 7% to 5%.

The percentage of Canadians able to speak French remained at about 32% between 1951 and 1991, while those able to speak English rose slightly to reach 83% by 1991.

Canadians with a non-official language as mother tongue represented 15% of the population in 1991, up from 12% in 1951.

The non-official languages reported as mother tongue changed considerably over the forty-year period. Ukrainian and German were replaced by Italian and Chinese as the most frequently reported mother tongues.

Among the non-official languages that Canadians can speak, Italian, German, Chinese and Spanish are by far the most common, with Spanish the most frequently learned second language.

English-French bilingualism rose markedly in Canada between 1951 and 1991. The number of bilingual Canadians more than doubled during the period, rising from 1.7 million to 4.4 million, while the proportion rose from 12% to 16%.

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