2016 Census Of Canada Shows Small Decline In French As A Home Language

Has the French language begun its much prophesied decline as a community tongue on the North American continent? That is the question being asked by some excitable commentators following the release of statistics from Canada’s 2016 census indicating a small but noticeable decrease in the country’s Francophone population. Overall, the number of people speaking French at home has fallen since 2011, dropping from 22% to 21.3%. In the majority Francophone province of Québec that figure has moved from 79.7% to 78.4%. While the English language experienced a reduction of its own across the nation, thanks to growing numbers of allophone immigrants, Québec bucked the trend with a rise in English. This was found not just in traditionally bilingual places like the cosmopolitan city of Montréal but also in smaller municipalities, including the provincial capital. Though this still leaves over 90% of the region’s residents with some degree of French fluency, taken with other evidence it has been argued that the 2016 figures may point to an emerging language shift, whether temporary or otherwise. One which can find its parallel in the 2016 census results from Ireland and Wales, where the already poor numbers of Irish- and Welsh-speakers showed marked declines.

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4 comments

  1. Why should I care? French is just as much a ‘killer language’ as English. Ask the linguistic minorities in France and no doubt Quebec also. If anything the French are even more chauvinistic over their language than English speakers.

    Note: These remarks may not be entirely rational as I am just another victim of School French 😉

    1. This sounds like a statement made by someone who only looks at language issues from an abstract and theoretical perspective, forgetting that even people speaking French are people and, in minority situations they are dealing with the same forces of colonialism, globalism, and discrimination. Would you make the same statement about Latinos fighting for language rights in the US?

      1. Please don’t take it too seriously, just me having a mini-rant. What people speak in Canada and the US is really none of my business, and I’ve not close enough to these situations to have any valid opinions. So, I’m sorry if I upset you, language can so easily become a touchy issue.

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