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2006 Census: The Evolving Linguistic Portrait, 2006 Census: Bilingualism

In Canada, knowledge of French continues increasing in the Anglophone population

In Canada, the knowledge of French increased between 2001 and 2006 among the Anglophone population (from 9.0% to 9.4%) and the allophone population (from 11.8% to 12.1%).

Canada. Percentage of population having knowledge of English and French by 2006 Census Divisions (CDs)

Bilingualism grew or remained unchanged among Anglophones in every province and territory compared with 2001. In Quebec, nearly seven out of 10 Anglophones (68.9%) reported knowing both English and French in 2006, compared to 66.1% in 2001. In 2006, 7.4% of Anglophones outside Quebec said they could carry on a conversation in both official languages, an increase from 7.1% reported in 2001.

Outside Quebec, New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada, had the highest bilingualism rate among Anglophones (16.0%). Francophones make up 32.7% of the population.

With regards to allophones, in 2006, 50.2% of those living in Quebec stated that they could carry on a conversation in both official languages, virtually unchanged from the 50.4% reported in 2001. Outside Quebec, only 5.6% of allophones in 2006 reported knowing both official languages, also very similar to that observed in 2001 (5.7%). In 2006, of all provinces, except Quebec, New Brunswick had the highest bilingualism rate among allophones (16.9%).

Table 17 English–French bilingualism among Anglophones and allophones, (single mother tongue), Canada, provinces, territories and Canada less Quebec, 1996 to 2006

New Brunswick. Percentage of population having knowledge of English and French by 2006 Census Subdivisions (CSDs)

Outside Quebec, knowledge of French is unchanged or lower among young Anglophone adults

Although the Anglophone population's knowledge of French appears to have increased slightly between 2001 and 2006, it continues to decline among young people aged 15 to 19 outside Quebec.

Given that French is generally learned at school, the bilingualism rate reaches its peak in the 15 to 19 age group. Many of these young people are completing secondary school, having been in French-as-a-second-language or immersion programs. Since 1996, bilingualism has been losing ground among Anglophones in this age group.

In the 2006 Census, 13.0% of Anglophones aged 15 to 19 outside Quebec reported or were reported bilingual, down from 14.7% in 2001 and 16.3% in 1996. It should be noted that bilingualism is slightly higher for the 10 to 14 and 5 to 9 age groups.

The ability of young Anglophones to maintain their knowledge of French as a second language appears to decline with time. In 2001, 14.7% of Anglophones aged 15 to 19 were bilingual. In 2006, when the cohort was five years older (aged 20 to 24), only 12.2% reported being bilingual. Similar trends are observed when following the rate of bilingualism over time for the cohort aged 15 to 19 in 1996 (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Rate of English–French bilingualism among Anglophones by age groups, Canada less Quebec, 1996 to 2006

Reliability of changes in bilingualism rates among Francophones

The proportion of Francophone Canadians who declared being able to conduct a conversation in English and French was 42.4% in 2006. In the province of Quebec, one Francophone out of three (35.8%) reported being bilingual. The vast majority of Francophones living outside Quebec (83.6%) were bilingual.

The proportion of Francophones who reported being bilingual was slightly lower in 2006 than in 2001 in every province, except Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, and in the territories. It is difficult to account for a trend reversal in the level of bilingualism among the Francophones, especially outside Quebec, in provinces where language transfer rates are particularly high and rising. For example, the proportion of Francophones in Ontario who reported being bilingual was 89.4% in 2001, up from 88.4% in 1996, but it fell back to 88.4% in 2006.

Figure 4 Rate of English-French bilingualism among Francophones, Canada, provinces, territories and Canada less Quebec, 1996 to 2006

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