Portrait of Official-Language Minorities in Canada
Language practices of children in francophone families living in a minority linguistic environment
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by Émilie Lavoie and René Houle
Introduction and presentation
This study examines the language practices of children from minority francophone communities outside Quebec. It describes children's language practices and identifies the key factors in the predominant use of French or English in their personal, extracurricular and leisure activities. These activities include watching television, using the Internet, participating in organized sports and non-sport activities, and reading. The analyses and results presented use data from the Survey on the Vitality of Official-Language Minorities (SVOLM), conducted by Statistics Canada in 2006.
Predominant use of English
- English generally predominates in personal, extracurricular and leisure activities of minority francophone children.
- The use of English is widespread in four of the five activities in the study. It dominates by a wide margin in using the Internet and watching television: in several situations, the use of English in these activities exceeds 90%.
- Children use English more often than French in organized sports and non-sport activities. However, the use of English is less predominant during these activities than in watching television and using the Internet.
Language behaviour in reading
- Reading differs from the other activities in that there is a greater use of French. Children's language behaviour in reading is more varied and fluctuates more in response to the explanatory variables considered. Bilingualism and a predominant use of French are much more common in reading than in children's other personal, extracurricular and leisure activities.
Language transmission factors also associated with children's language practices
- The study revealed a set of factors associated with children's language practices in their personal, extracurricular and leisure activities. These factors largely coincide with those identified in the literature as being linked to language transmission in a minority situation, including the children's regional and linguistic environment, the family's linguistic composition and the school environment in a minority setting.
- A strong indication of the presence of French in a community means less predominant use of English and an increased use of French.
- The predominant use of French is concentrated mostly in the regions of New Brunswick and Ontario that border Quebec. Children living in New Brunswick have the highest rates of predominant use of French in Canada outside Quebec. Moreover, New Brunswick is the only region in Canada in which children use French more than English in three of the five activities in the study (reading; participating in organized sports and non-sport activities). English dominates French in Internet use and watching television throughout Canada, even in New Brunswick.
- Children with two francophone parents have different language practices from children of parents with a different language profile: they use more French in their personal, extracurricular and leisure activities.
- The use of English is generally a little less predominant among children of exogamous parents in which the mother is francophone than among children of exogamous parents in which the father is francophone.
- The pivotal role played by schools in the adoption of French as the preferred language for activities has been demonstrated through a synthetic variable for the language used in the children's education, and by examining the language practices of minority francophone children by age.