Language Planning, Language Policy and Language Research in Canada

On this page: Canadian French - Canadian English - Heritage Languages - Native Languages - Links


Language matters in Canada can be divided into several categories. Firstly, the federal government has declared English and French to be the official languages of Canada. Secondly, there is a multitude of aboriginal languages spoken by the First Nations ("Indians") and Inuit ("Eskimo").

Lastly, the immigrant languages other than English and French are encouraged and supported by the federal government's multiculturalism policy. These are usually termed "heritage languages" defined in an official document as "a language, other than one of the official languages of Canada, that contributes to the linguistic heritage of Canada" (Canadian Heritage Languages Act).

Although Canada is often thought of as a bilingual country, in truth less than 5% of the population speaks both languages from childhood and less than half of the population is able to speak more than one language of any kind.

General Book about Canadian Language Topics

French in Canada

French is the majority language in most parts of the province of Québec as well as adjoining areas of Ontario on Québec's western border and a large area of the province of New Brunwick to the southeast of Québec. Outside of this region, there is no significant-sized area where French-speaking people form a majority of the population.

Books about Canadian French

English in Canada

English dominates in most areas of the country outside those just mentioned, including the entire western half of Montréal, Québec, Canada's second-largest city. In most of these areas, English is the mother tongue of more than 90% of speakers, although small groups of French speakers are found throughout the country.

Canadian English - Dictionaries

Canadian English - Thesauruses

Canadian English - General

Canadian English - Regional

Heritage Languages

The only exceptions to English domination in these areas are neighbourhoods of people whose first language is one of the immigrant "heritage languages." For example, there is a group of neighbourhoods in Toronto where less than half of the people have English as their first language. In this case the majority are native speakers of Chinese, Italian or Portuguese, among others.

Check out the links section of this page for more information on various Heritage Language teaching programs throughout the country.

First Nations/Inuit (Indian & Eskimo)

The native languages of the First Nations and Inuit people have been neglected or even discouraged until recently, but with increasing moves towards aboriginal self-government, among other factors, great strides have been made in recent years towards preserving what's left and even expanding the scope of the remaining aboriginal languages.

Books on Canadian Aboriginal Languages

Links to other sites

Since education is the responsibility of the provincial governments, important differences in language teaching and language planning policies exist between the various provinces. In the links that follow, many are broken down province by province.

The following are some web documents pertaining to language matters in Canada:

Comments or questions?: Write to Neil Wick at home
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