Thursday, December 02, 2021

Speaking French in Canada

In 1504 the first French fishing ship arrived in Newfoundland, where it discovered seas very rich in fish. In the next 30 years more and more French fishing ships ventured across the Atlantic and some even set up temporary settlements to dry cod, especially on the coasts of Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. These fishermen were among the first ever French speakers in Canada.

French is now the mother tongue of around 20% of Canadians. It is, with English, one of the two official languages of the country. You can learn more about how the French language arrived and spread in Canada on the interactive map Voyages en Francophonie Canadienne. The map provides a chronological history of the establishment and spread of the French language in Canada from the 16th Century until the present day. 

A timeline runs along the bottom of the map which allows you to explore the historical entries by date. Follow the timeline and you can learn more about the first French colonies established in Canada and the explorations of the country made by French catholic missionaries. The map also explains a little about the establishment of French colonies elsewhere on the continent, for example in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. 

If you select the period '2000...' you can learn more about the present state of the French language in Canada and its future in the country. This includes sections on what is being done to support the immigration of French speakers, the health of Francophone schools and the efforts to ensure the French language continues to be supported by all Canadian institutions.

You can discover more about the current mother tongues spoken in Canadian homes on the interactive dot map Langues Maternelles 2016. On this map Canadian company Anagraph has plotted the languages spoken by all 34,504,810 Canadians. On the Langues Maternelles 2016 dot map you can see the mother tongue languages spoken in every neighborhood in Canada, according to the 2016 census.

The map reveals how in most Canadian cities people with the same languages often live in the same neighborhoods. For example in Montreal French speakers dominate in the northern districts. English speakers tend to live in southern and south-eastern neighborhoods. Chinese speakers can mostly be found in Brossard and there appears to be a fair number of Italian speakers in north-eastern Montreal.

You can find out the proportion and numbers of Canadians who speak French and English on the Canadian census website. In Update of the 2016 Census Language Data you can view a table showing the percentage of mother tongue speakers of French and English and the total number of the population who speak the two languages. In 2016 there were 19,460,855 people with English as their mother tongue, 7,166,700 with French as their mother tongue and 7,321,060 whose mother tongue was neither French nor English. 

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