Which language do they speak in Canada?

language map of CanadaThere’s something wrong with the question in the title of this piece, isn’t there? I had asked some students “What language do Canadians speak?” Some of them said English, a few said French, some said both English and French. One said “Canadian.” One said tentatively “Eskimo?”

Well, all of them are right, I suppose … and all of them are wrong. Take a look at this wonderful Canadian Languages map, which dramatically shows the geographical distribution of the 21 most commonly spoken languages in Canada (plus “other”). Yes, that’s 21! Actually, the map omits French and English, which of course would swamp everything else and make it impossible to notice the minority languages. Canada is a nation of immigrants (no surprise to anyone who has visited Toronto and Montreal) … and may become more so after November.

As you see, the largest area is taken up by the catchall description “Aboriginal,” which is not a language but rather a bucket containing a large number of languages spoken by the Native Peoples, including those generally labeled as American Indian and Inuit. Oddly, there’s a large swath of Tagalog speakers right in the middle of that area and another such swath in the Yukon. Who knew? Other large areas include speakers of Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, and Russian. Fascinating stuff for those of us interested in both maps and languages. Read the accompanying article for more info.

Categories: Linguistics