TORONTO: Immigration is fast changing the linguistic landscape of Canada. And Punjabi tops the list of the 10 immigrant languages spoken most at home, according to the 2011 Census of Population.
Punjabi is followed by Chinese, Cantonese, Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, Mandarin, Italian, Urdu and German, according to the census.
But if speakers of Cantonese, Mandarin & Chinese n.o.s (not otherwise specified) are taken together, they become a million-plus-strong group, pushing Punjabi to the second place among the immigrant languages most spoken at home.
In fact, 460,000 people reported speaking Punjabi at home, as per the 2011 the census.
In the Toronto area, 8 percent of immigrants spoke Punjabi, 8.8 percent Cantonese, 5.9 percent Urdu and 5.7 percent Tamil at home.
In all, 1,790,000 people in the Toronto area – Canada’s largest metropolitan area – reported speaking an immigrant language at home. Which means that 32.2 percent of the Toronto population speaks languages other than English and French at home.
In the Vancouver area, 712,000 people – 31 percent of the population – spoke an immigrant language at home. Punjabi was on the top, with 17.7 percent of these people saying that they spoke this language at home, 16 percent spoke Cantonese, 12.2 percent Chinese n.o.s, 11.8 percent Mandarin and 6.7 percent Tagalog (of the Philippines) at home.
Not surprisingly, the number of English speakers at home in both the metropolitan centres of Toronto and Vancouver is declining.
While the number of English speakers at home in Toronto fell from 59.1 percent from 2006 to 55 percent in 2011, these figures declined from 62 percent in 2006 to 58 percent in 2011.
Clearly, Canada is becoming less of an English-speaking nation.
Over 200 languages are spoken in Canadian homes, making it the foremost country on the planet in terms of languistic diversity.
As for the use of Canada’s two official languages at home, English is spoken by 58 percent – or 19,225,000 Canadians – and French by 18.2 percent – or 6,043,000 Canadians.
The use of both these languages at home has come down slightly since 2006.
One-fifth of Canadians – nearly 6,630,000 people- speak a language other than English or French at home in 2011, according to the census.
Surprisingly, Hindi and Bengali are among the immigrant languages which have seen a huge jump in the number of their users since 2006.
While the use of Hindi increased 44 percent, Bengali speakers registered 40 percent growth. These two Indian languages are among eight languages that have registered a growth of 30 percent since 2006.
The other languages to post such growth are Mandarin (50 percent), Arabic (47 percent), Creole (42 percent), Persian (33 percent) and Spanish (32 percent).
On the other hand, four languages – Chinese, Italian, Polish and Greek – reported a decline in the number of users since the last census.
Reacting to the news, Sadhu Binning, who is a known Punjabi writer in Canada and also taught Punjabi at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said in his facebook posting, “Punjabis living in Canada should be proud of themselves. In the last census (2011), they demonstrated that they are proud of their mother tongue. At least 460,000 people across Canada said that their mother tongue is Punjabi. We know that there are more Punjabis than this number… but this is a moment of joy. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL PUNJABIS IN CANADA.”