As immigration increases from different parts of the world, the linguistic makeup of Canada changes. In 2006, the allophone population—individuals whose mother tongue is neither English nor French—totalled 6.3 million, an increase of 958,000 people from 2001.
This 18% growth expanded the allophone share of the population to one out of every five Canadians. Consequently, the anglophone share of the population declined from 59% in 2001 to 58% in 2006, while the francophone share declined from 23% to 22%.
Chinese, Urdu and Spanish grow
Individuals with Chinese languages as their mother tongue—including Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Taiwanese, Chaochow (Teochow), Fukien and Shanghainese—represented Canada's largest non-official language group in 2006. The Chinese mother tongue population increased from 3% of non-official mother tongues in 1971 to 16% in 2006 and, at 1,034,000 people, represented over 3% of the total population.
Of the 10 largest allophone groups in the country, Urdu showed the highest growth rate from 2001 to 2006, up 80% from 87,000 speakers to 156,000. (Urdu is a language widely spoken in both India and Pakistan.) The Urdu mother tongue population represented 3% of non-official mother tongues and 0.5% of Canada's population in 2006.
The Spanish mother tongue population has also grown, rising from 1% of non-official mother tongues spoken in Canada in 1971 to 6% in 2006.
Declines in some languages
Language groups that have traditionally been strong in Canada—such as Italian and Ukrainian—showed declines in the 2006 Census.
The proportion of Canadians with Italian as their mother tongue has been declining for decades, from 19% of all non-official languages in 1971 to 8% in 2006. Still, Italian remains the country's second largest non-official language group.
The decline in the Ukrainian mother tongue population has been comparable. Ukrainian dropped from 11% of all non-official languages in 1971 to 2% in 2006.
German, which had been declining since 1961, saw a sudden increase from 2001 to 2006, gaining 11,000 speakers. However, German's share of the allophone population has been steadily shrinking, from 19% in 1971 to 7% in 2006.
French immersion rising
In publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, enrolments in French second-language immersion programs have been rising steadily. This contrasts with national declines in overall school enrolments, which fell 3% from 2000/2001 to 2006/2007. In the 2006/2007 academic year, 300,000 youths were enrolled in a French immersion program—6% of all students. Enrolment in these programs is up 10% since 2000/2001.
From 2000/2001 to 2006/2007, the number of students enrolled climbed 46% in Newfoundland and Labrador, 30% in British Columbia and 18% in Alberta. Enrolment in these programs increased in all provinces except New Brunswick, which has seen a 6% decrease since 2000/2001.
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