Brief history about languages used in Canada
Kanata, from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian Indigenous language, meaning village, settlement. This is now the acknowledged derivation of the name of Canada, broadly known for being a wide-open country that entices millions of foreign guests all across the world. Within its uniqueness “menu,” multiculturalism is the top specialty. As a result of this, a wide range of languages are spoken there, with English and French leading the caravan, and with a large diversity of aboriginal languages. They are the two official languages of the country, both federally and nationally, and reflect the long history and colonial roots of the country.
Let us have a quick look of the history of languages used in the second largest country on earth. In 1867, the Constitution Act identified the usage of two languages: English and French, in Parliament and before the federal courts. Notwithstanding, this did not mean they were to be classified as “official languages.”
In 1963, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was founded to recommend steps for the development of the country according to the principle of equality between English and French. And, three years later, the first federal Official Languages Act was adopted, which declared English and French as the two official languages of Canada.
This Act was amended in 2005 to stipulate that federal institutions must embark on constructive actions to implement the Government of Canada’s staunchness to official language minority groups.
Language distribution in Canada
From a legal point of view of the federal government, there are three main language classes in Canada: official (“Charter”) languages – English and French – recognized according to the Official Languages Act; ancestral languages of Indigenous peoples, traditionally spoken by Métis and Inuit but which are not legally protected at the federal level; and the so-called “immigrant languages,” which do not posses the official status in Canada but are nevertheless widely spoken.
French is the dominant language in almost all the province of Quebec, as well as parts of New Brunswick. In most of the rest of the country, English dominates, while Montreal, Ottawa and Moncton have vast intensities of fluently bilingual inhabitants.
When it comes to the Indigenous languages, there are around 70 distinct ones in Canada, which fall into 12 categories and are spoken by First Nations, Métis people and the Inuit. According to Statistics Canada*, 260,550 Indigenous people claimed the capacity to speak an Indigenous language, translated into 3.1 percent increase from 2006. The Algonquian languages had the bulkiest speaking population, succeeded by Cree and Ojibwe.
On the other hand, some of the most spoken immigrant languages are Mandarin, Punjabi, Cantonese, Spanish, Arabic, German, Tagalog, and Italian.
Did you know? Interesting facts about the Canadian languages
Here are some interesting facts about Canadian languages. 30% of people in Canada can keep a conversation in French; 200+ is the number of the mother languages spoken most frequently at home in Canada, involving English and French (yes, 200+); there is only ONE province that is officially bilingual and that is New Brunswick; the third most common mother tongue is Mandarin; Tagalog is the fastest mushrooming language in the country, while Canadians who can speak a language besides English and French is presently mounting.
Below are 20 Canadian slang words (or known as Canadianisms) travelers should know before they visit the country:
Nickname for a Canadian
“Don’t think so?” “Don’t you agree?” “Pardon?”
- To be on pogey
To be on welfare
- Homo milk
A Canadian slang word referring to milk with 3.25% fat.
- Hang a Larry
A slang used while driving and simply means to “Take a left”
- Hang a Roger
Meaning to make a right turn while driving.
“Canucks” who go south during the winter months to flee the cold.
Meaning kilometers, the unit of length in the metric system equal to 1,000 meters.
It refers to the popular Tim Horton’s fast-food coffee chain.
A flask-sized bottle of liquor like rum or Canadian rye whiskey.
Pronounced “toohk” or “tuke,” this a winter hat that others would normally refer to as beanies or ski hats. It originates from a French word that has the same meaning, “cap”.
A usual way for a Canadian to order their coffee—double cream, double sugar.
Doughnut filled with jam.
- Jesus Murphy
A slang that is used by Canadians when cursing – randomly after hurting themselves. They replay the name of Christ with Murphy. (To avoid the guilt and shame of blasphemy, of course).
- Fill yer boots
An expression coming from the island of Newfoundland, meaning “do whatever you want” or “help yourself to as much as you’d like.”
- Git’r done
A word of encouragement when trying to finish something. For example, “You’ve got a bit more wine left in your glass, git’r done.”
A case of 24 beers.
A sofa or couch.
- Yes b’y
A phrase of affirmation, used mainly in Newfoundland.
If all of these phrases and meanings are still way too confusing to understand or whether you just need a helping hand with travel, legal or medical documentation, we offer a quick and accurate Translation Service, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.