Mother tongue

Part A - Short definition:

Not applicable

Part B - Detailed definition:

Refers to the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual on May 10, 2011.

Census years:

2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, 1971

Reported for:

Total population

Question number(s):

Direct variable: Question 9


See Figures 23, 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E and 23F.


For the first time in 2011, the mother tongue question is not the only language question asked of the entire population. In 2011, as on previous long form census questionnaires since 1991, the question on mother tongue appears after the knowledge of official language and home language questions.

In the wording of the question on mother tongue, the expression 'at home' was added to specify the context in which the individual learned the language. Only the two official languages, English and French, appeared on the questionnaire. Other languages could be written in the space provided, as in 2006, 2001, 1996 and 1991. In previous censuses, the most frequently occurring non-official languages were listed on the questionnaire.

To facilitate respondents' task an instruction which appeared in the 1986 Census Guide was added to the questionnaire in 1991, where it remained in 1996, 2001 and 2006. The instruction read as follows: 'If this person no longer understands the first language learned, indicate the second language learned.'

On the French version of all census forms, for all questions in the language module where there was a choice of response available, the order in which the choices appeared was modified after 1996 in order to give precedence to the category 'French.' The questions on knowledge of official languages and non-official languages also reflected this change in the actual wording of the questions.

For comparability purposes, Appendix D  provides a list of languages released in 2001, 2006, and 2011.

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