Census: Metro St. John’s still overwhelmingly unilingual

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Downtown St. John's seen from Shea Heights. - File photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

OTTAWA - The metropolitan region of St. John’s remains overwhelmingly a unilingual community, new census data shows - evidence that as some major metropolitan cities grow ever more multicultural and multilingual, the dominant mother tongue in many parts of the country remains one of Canada’s official languages.

English was identified as the mother tongue for 97.1 per cent of people in the census metropolitan area of St. John’s, Statistics Canada said today as it released new information on languages from the 2011 census. French, Canada’s other official language, was cited by 0.5 per cent.

But a total of 2.4 per cent of the population of metro St. John’s has a mother tongue other than one of Canada's official languages. ThatIs an increase from 2.2 per cent in the 2006 census.

According to the 2011 census, the top five non-official languages spoken in the metropolitan area of St. John’s: one of the Chinese languages (0.5 per cent); Arabic (0.2 per cent); Spanish (0.2 per cent); German (0.1 per cent); and Bengali (0.1 per cent). Five years ago, the census reported the top five other languages spoken were one of the Chinese languages, Spanish, German, Urdu and Arabic.

Statistics Canada defines “mother tongue” as the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood at the time the census was taken in May 2011. The census also documented languages spoken at home and knowledge of CanadaIs official languages.

Statistics Canada noted a change in the response patterns for some of the mother tongue data for the 2011 census. Previously, language questions were asked only on what was known as the long form census, which went to just 20 per cent of the population. Last year, the government did away with the long form questionnaire and put the language question on the census that went to all Canadians.

As a result of the change in methodology, Statistics Canada reported that Canadians appear to have been less inclined than in previous years to report languages other than French or English as their only mother tongue - and also more inclined to list multiple languages as their mother tongue and the language used most often at home.

Across Canada, a total of 57.8 per cent of the population spoke English, 21.7 per cent spoke French and 20.6 per cent spoke other languages. The proportion of Canadians speaking one of the countryIs official languages has decreased over the years as the immigrant population has increased.

The top “non-official” languages spoken in Canada: one of the Chinese languages (3.3 per cent); Punjabi (1.3 per cent); Spanish (1.3 per cent); Italian (1.3 per cent) and German (1.3 per cent).

In total, the 2011 census reported 191 different languages as mother tongues among the countryIs population. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that counts language in its census.

In the census metropolitan area of St. John’s, a total of 114 languages were identified.

Statistics Canada uses the term census metropolitan area to describe any area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people. Census metropolitan areas are often different from municipal boundaries and take into account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada’s largest cities.

Here is a local breakdown of language details for some communities in the St. John’s area:

Community 2011 percentage of poulation, 2006  percentage of population

St. John’s census metropolitan area

Mother Tongue

English 189,270 97.1 174,660 97.4

French 950 0.5 610 0.3

one of the Chinese languages

 1,045 0.5 735 0.4

Arabic 395 0.2 205 0.1

Spanish 360 0.2 480 0.3

German 205 0.1 280 0.2

Bengali 195 0.1 145 0.1

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 180,240 92.5 166,385 92.8

French 40 0.0 15 0.0

English and French 14,345 7.4 12,655 7.1

 

City of St. John’s

Mother Tongue

English 99,985 95.5 95,705 96.3

French 595 0.6 420 0.4

one of the Chinese languages

 975 0.9 640 0.6

Arabic 380 0.4 200 0.2

Spanish 320 0.3 420 0.4

Bengali 195 0.2 145 0.1

Russian 155 0.1 120 0.1

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 95,580 91.3 90,790 91.3

French 35 0.0 15 0.0

English and French 8,825 8.4 8,425 8.5

 

Mount Pearl

Mother Tongue

English 23,900 99.0 24,295 99.1

French 70 0.3 75 0.3

one of the Chinese languages

 25 0.1 10 0.0

German 20 0.1 25 0.1

Sign languages, n.i.e. 10 0.0 5 0.0

American Sign Language 10 0.0 0 0.0

Malay 10 0.0 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 22,630 93.7 23,165 94.5

French 5 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 1,500 6.2 1,355 5.5

 

Corner Brook

Mother Tongue

English 19,275 98.6 19,330 97.8

French 85 0.4 90 0.5

one of the Chinese languages

 25 0.1 10 0.1

Arabic 20 0.1 20 0.1

German 20 0.1 40 0.2

Germanic languages, n.i.e.

 15 0.1 0 0.0

Tagalog (Filipino) 10 0.1 5 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 18,605 95.2 18,585 94.1

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 930 4.8 1,155 5.8

 

Gander

Mother Tongue

English 10,780 98.5 9,445 97.5

French 60 0.5 80 0.8

Arabic 25 0.2 10 0.1

Tagalog (Filipino) 10 0.1 30 0.3

one of the Chinese languages

 10 0.1 10 0.1

Germanic languages, n.i.e.

 10 0.1 55 0.6

Gujarati 5 0.0 5 0.1

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 10,220 93.4 8,840 91.3

French 0 0.0 10 0.1

English and French 720 6.6 840 8.7

 

Grand Falls-Windsor

Mother Tongue

English 13,505 98.8 13,145 98.2

French 35 0.3 35 0.3

one of the Chinese languages

 25 0.2 35 0.3

Arabic 20 0.1 30 0.2

Urdu 15 0.1 25 0.2

Malayalam 10 0.1 0 0.0

Tagalog (Filipino) 10 0.1 20 0.1

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 13,105 95.9 12,790 95.6

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 540 4.0 570 4.3

 

Paradise

Mother Tongue

English 17,395 99.1 12,390 98.8

French 45 0.3 25 0.2

one of the Chinese languages

 15 0.1 20 0.2

Greek 10 0.1 5 0.0

Arabic 10 0.1 0 0.0

Spanish 10 0.1 0 0.0

Malayalam 5 0.0 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 16,560 94.3 11,980 95.6

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 990 5.6 540 4.3

 

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

Mother Tongue

English 7,245 98.4 6,450 98.4

French 40 0.5 25 0.4

one of the Chinese languages

 10 0.1 0 0.0

German 10 0.1 40 0.6

Turkish 5 0.1 0 0.0

Arabic 5 0.1 0 0.0

Korean 5 0.1 10 0.2

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 6,820 92.7 6,110 93.3

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 540 7.3 440 6.7

 

Torbay

Mother Tongue

English 7,285 98.5 6,155 98.6

French 50 0.7 10 0.2

Italian 10 0.1 30 0.5

German 10 0.1 0 0.0

American Sign Language 5 0.1 0 0.0

one of the Chinese languages

 5 0.1 0 0.0

Ojibway 5 0.1 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 6,860 92.7 5,895 94.5

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 535 7.2 345 5.5

 

Conception Bay South

Mother Tongue

English 24,395 99.2 21,405 98.8

French 100 0.4 40 0.2

German 20 0.1 30 0.1

one of the Chinese languages

 10 0.0 45 0.2

Russian 10 0.0 35 0.2

Spanish 10 0.0 30 0.1

Arabic 5 0.0 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 23,080 93.8 20,425 94.3

French 5 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 1,515 6.2 1,235 5.7

 

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Mother Tongue

English 7,180 96.2 7,205 96.5

French 80 1.1 110 1.5

Inuktitut, n.i.e. (Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun and Inuit languages n.i.e.)

 50 0.7 35 0.5

German 25 0.3 50 0.7

Innu/Montagnais and Naskapi

 25 0.3 15 0.2

Tagalog (Filipino) 20 0.3 5 0.1

Persian (Farsi) 10 0.1 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 7,025 94.2 6,915 92.6

French 5 0.1 0 0.0

English and French 425 5.7 555 7.4

 

Labrador City

Mother Tongue

English 6,995 95.0 6,930 95.9

French 220 3.0 210 2.9

Tagalog (Filipino) 50 0.7 10 0.1

one of the Chinese languages

 10 0.1 10 0.1

Portuguese 10 0.1 0 0.0

Spanish 10 0.1 15 0.2

Punjabi 5 0.1 10 0.1

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 6,515 88.5 6,110 84.5

French 40 0.5 15 0.2

English and French 805 10.9 1,100 15.2

 

Channel-Port aux Basques

Mother Tongue

English 4,080 99.4 4,195 98.6

French 5 0.1 10 0.2

Arabic 10 0.2 0 0.0

Korean 5 0.1 0 0.0

one of the Chinese languages

 5 0.1 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 4,045 98.7 4,165 97.8

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 55 1.3 95 2.2

 

Harbour Breton

Mother Tongue

English 1,695 99.7 1,845 100.0

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 1,675 98.5 1,815 98.4

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 25 1.5 30 1.6

 

Lewisporte

Mother Tongue

English 3,370 99.1 3,150 98.4

French 10 0.3 0 0.0

one of the Chinese languages

 10 0.3 0 0.0

Arabic 5 0.1 20 0.6

Portuguese 5 0.1 0 0.0

 

Knowledge of official languages

English 3,330 98.1 3,120 97.5

French 0 0.0 0 0.0

English and French 65 1.9 70 2.2

 

More language highlights and tables from Statistics Canada can be viewed HERE.

 

 

Organizations: Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Canada, OTTAWA

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Republic-of-Newfoundland
    October 24, 2012 - 13:18

    Chris- October 24, 2012 at 12:16:29 Well our heritage is that we were english speaking people, so why should we become modern and become multi-lingual Sometimes you have to leave the island, and when you do it would be nice to know you have the social skills to interact with others.

    • Chris
      October 24, 2012 - 19:57

      I guess I should have started/ended my earlier comment with . Because heaven forbid St. John's should get with the times.

  • Geniuses
    October 24, 2012 - 11:33

    Fellas, They do a census to determine the population distribution and thus funding for things like highways, police, schools, etc. As part of the census, they ask these questions. FYI, they do this in every country. I know it's the default position for someone from Newfoundland to complain about everything, but can you at least have some decent arguments if you're going to whine like that?

  • Chris
    October 24, 2012 - 10:46

    Well our heritage is that we were english speaking people, so why should we become modern and become multi-lingual

  • Scott Free
    October 24, 2012 - 10:43

    Your tax dollars in action! what a colossal WASTE!

  • McLovin
    October 24, 2012 - 10:17

    They actually needed a census to figure this out?

    • John in Whitbourne
      October 24, 2012 - 14:18

      It makes a lot of sense to measure things. There is too much unfounded opinion in this world and decisions need to be based on actual facts. For Newfoundland, the documentary evidence is important because there is some impetus (and organizational bias) to declare every district as bilingual. This documentation can protect the jobs of uni-lingual English-speaking civil servants. The language of the conqueror should not be imposed on the conquered people. As descendants of English emigrants, we know the pain of the Norman conquest and the imposition of the French nobility on our poor conquered progenitors. Nearly a thousand years later, England is ruled by a French-speaking Queen.