J.R. Almerol, a manager at Basha Foods International, says he has noticed that younger family members are less likely to keep up with their Filipino heritage by speaking the Filipino language Tagalog. The most recent census has showed an increase in second language speakers other than French.
Photograph by: Gavin Young , Calgary Herald
CALGARY — Located along Barlow Trail in the city’s northeast stand two staples of Canadian taste: Tim Hortons and McDonald’s.
But tucked behind them, an international hub offers a different flavour of Calgary’s increasingly multicultural makeup.
On a Wednesday afternoon, shoppers inside Basha Foods International saw themselves reflected in the aisles laden with exotic spices, imported goodies and halal meat.
A new Statistics Canada report suggests Calgary is a cornucopia of cultures and specifically the languages that we speak.
It shows 70 per cent of Calgarians claim English as their first language, only one per cent speak French, and the rest speak a mix of immigrant languages.
Based on Calgary’s 2011 population of 1,214,839, English is the mother tongue for 70 per cent. French-speakers make up one per cent with 18,600 people. Immigrant languages make up 25 per cent or 304,760.
The top three immigrant languages in Calgary are Punjabi, Chinese dialects, and Spanish.
In the home, 80 per cent of Calgarians are speaking English. Two per cent speak Punjabi, 1.5 per cent speak Tagalog, and just 0.6 per cent speak French.
Calgary’s growing population is reflecting its diversity, community leaders say.
“I can see the difference. We talk about it and how it shows,” said Sikh Society Calgary president Harpreet Singh. “It’s growing big time. There are lots of people moving here. I see at the temple every time a new face. I like it.”
Punjabi language classes for children are packed every Friday, he said.
In his own home, Singh says, “when I talk to my sons, I get excited and start talking in English. They will stop me and say, ‘I understand in Punjabi.’”
It comes as no surprise Filipino households are communicating in Tagalog inside their Calgary homes, says Felix Guerreo, the Philippines consul general.
“The increase is coming from foreign workers and new immigrants coming because of the need to work,” Guerreo said.
For Basha meat manager J.R. Almerol, Tagalog is sometimes lost among younger generations in favour of English.
“My sister’s kids moved here and spoke the language, but that was 10 years ago. Now, they have trouble understanding,” said Almerol, who hails from the Philippines.
While Calgary’s French-speaking community ranks on the lower side across the country, there is growing interest in children’s classes.
“We have seen an increase in French diplomas taken by kids and young adults over the past few years. Maybe there are (fewer) families speaking French at home, but there’s more young learning French,” said Damien Hubert, executive director of Alliance Française de Calgary.
“I’ve seen more and more French-speaking people in Calgary and according to Stats Canada in economic growing provinces such as Alberta, there’s more French speaking people than before.”
The bilingual stats tell a story about Alberta’s economy, said Education Minister Jeff Johnson.
“It’s very exciting because we are in a global economy and a global society and the more our kids get exposed to that in our schools and our communities is a good thing,” he said.
“The other piece that we’re seeing in Alberta is a lot of people are moving here. Alberta’s the place to be. The economy is great, it’s a great society, we’ve got some of the best health care and education in the world. Why would you not want to live here? There’s no other place I’d want to live.
“But what that does, it creates challenges for the schools. We have schools that 50 or 60 per cent of the students are English language learners,” said Johnson. “If you’re an educator or you’re administering that school, you’re funding that school, now you have a whole other bunch of metrics that you have to deal with that 20 years ago didn’t have to deal with. It’s a challenge, but I think it’s a real worthwhile challenge to take home.”
Canada-wide, the latest census figures suggest that more than two million people speak neither English nor French at home.
Overall, one-fifth of Canada’s population reported speaking a foreign tongue at least some of the time at home. More than 200 languages were reported in the 2011 census, with Chinese languages continuing to dominate. More than a million people report they speak either Mandarin, Cantonese or Chinese (a non-specified category that includes Mandarin or Cantonese).
Punjabi was listed as the next-most-common foreign language spoken in Canadian households, with 460,000 reporting it as their mother tongue.
While the use of foreign languages in Canadian households has gone largely unchanged since 2006, the government has started to crack down on would-be immigrants who aren’t proficient in at least one official language.
This year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney unveiled tough new language requirements for those seeking citizenship or permanent residence. Strong language skills are thought to improve newcomers’ chances of getting a good job and integrating into society. Kenney has also noted a correlation between immigration fraud and regions that don’t make proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages a priority.
That said, the figures suggest the use of multiple languages at home has increased since 2006. Last year, 11.5 per cent of the population said they used English as well as an immigrant language at home, compared to just 9.1 per cent in 2006.
In all, Asian languages now account for 56 per cent of non-official languages in Canada, while just 40 per cent are of European origin.
Tagalog, a Philippines-based language, saw a huge jump in popularity in Canada in 2011, with 279,000 people reporting speaking it at home — a 64 per cent increase over 2006.
The use of Mandarin (51 per cent), Arabic (47 per cent), Hindi (44 per cent), Creole (42 per cent), Bengali (40 per cent), Persian (33 per cent) and Spanish (32 per cent) also saw significant growth since 2006. Meanwhile, the number of Italian, Polish and Greek speakers has declined.
The vast majority of those who said they speak an immigrant language at home live in a major Canadian city.
In Toronto, 1.8 million people said they spoke an immigrant language, a number two-and-a-half times greater than that reported in Vancouver. Chinese languages accounted for the largest number of immigrant tongues reported in both cities, followed by Punjabi.
Chinese languages also topped the list in Calgary and Edmonton, where Punjabi and Tagalog are also dominant.
With files from Richard Cuthbertson, Calgary Herald and Postmedia Newsszickefoose@calgaryherald.com
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Article posted in Arab community, Asian community, Communities, Demographic shift, Hindu community, Immigration, Iranian/Persian community, Language shift, Latino community, Multiculturalism, South/Southeast Asian community