Tagalog? Officially, the fastest-growing immigrant language in Canada
By Misty Harris, Postmedia News October 24, 2012
The cover of the 2011 census package is seen in Ottawa on May 5, 2011.On Wednesday, Statistics Canada’s third tranche of data from the 2011 census – this one focused on families and their living arrangements – will make it clear that in this country, “family” can mean almost anything at all. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canadians have Tagalog on the tongue, with the latest census data suggesting that the language of The Philippines is growing faster than any foreign language in this country.
In 2011, Canada admitted more permanent residents from The Philippines than from any other country, at 34,991. Experts say the long-term increase – up from just 11,011 in 2002 – is largely due to the Live-In Caregiver Program, which provides nannies to Canadian families. The program skews heavily Filipino. As well, incoming nurses and service-sector workers send money home to their families (remittances from overseas Filipinos account for roughly one-tenth of the GDP of The Philippines).
The robust immigration helps explain why the number of Tagalog speakers jumped a whopping 64 per cent between 2006 and 2011, according to a new census release by Statistics Canada.
In total, 279,000 people reported using Tagalog in 2011, compared to 170,000 five years earlier. It was the most-spoken foreign language in Edmonton; the second-most-spoken foreign language in Calgary; and the sixth-most-common in Vancouver and Toronto.
In terms of influence on Canada’s linguistic landscape, however, Mandarin – which, officially, grew by 51 per cent since the last census – is expected to make a bigger splash.
How big of a splash, though, isn’t known precisely.
The 2011 census showed that about 255,000 people in Canada stated Mandarin was their mother tongue, and 389,000 listed Cantonese. But a further 441,000 simply wrote “Chinese” as their mother tongue when filling out the census form. Statistics Canada couldn’t say exactly how many of these were Cantonese speakers, Mandarin speakers, or used one of the other eight languages spoken in China today.
However, based on when a Chinese-language speaker immigrated to Canada, and from which country, Statistics Canada said Wednesday that about half of the people in the general Chinese language category were likely Mandarin speakers and half Cantonese. What that means is that as many as 609,000 people may speak Cantonese and 475,000 may speak Mandarin, making them the top two immigrant languages spoken in Canada, ahead of Punjabi and Spanish.
“Mandarin is used more frequently in the workplace – notably, in cities such as Vancouver and, to a lesser extent, Toronto – so it has more impact on the public use of language,” added Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.
“And with respect to bilingualism and multilingualism, you see more people citing China as a global economic influence, and hence more pressure on people to learn Mandarin.
“I don’t know of anybody in Canada right now talking about the importance of learning Tagalog,” Jedwab said.
– With files from Jordan Press.
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