Language Projections for Canada, 2011 to 2036
Evolution of language groups
- Based on the three main projection scenarios selected, the English-, French- and other- (non-official language) mother-tongue populations should increase between 2011 and 2036. The English-mother-tongue population could reach between 22.8 million and 23.7 million, the French-mother-tongue population between 7.5 million and 7.8 million, and the other-mother-tongue population between 10.7 million and 13.8 million by 2036.
- The demographic weight of the English-mother-tongue population in Canada could decline from 58.7% in 2011 to between 52% and 56% in 2036, while the weight of the French-mother-tongue population could fall from 21.3% in 2011 to 17% or 18% in 2036.
- The other-mother-tongue population would see the most growth in both Quebec and the rest of Canada, largely due to immigration, which should be the main driver of population growth in Canada between now and 2036. In 2036, the other-mother-tongue population could account for 26% to 31% of the total Canadian population, compared with 20% in 2011.
- According to the three main projection scenarios, the English-mother-tongue population could be between 808,000 and 853,000 in 2036 in Quebec, compared with 652,000 in 2011. It would be a little lower in the event of an interprovincial migration similar to 1996-2001 period. In the rest of Canada, it could increase from 19.5 million in 2011 to between 22.0 million and 22.8 million by 2036.
- The share of the English-mother-tongue population could either grow or decline in Quebec (from 8.2% in 2011 to between 7.9% and 8.8% in 2036), but decrease in the rest of Canada (from 74% in 2011 to between 65% and 69% in 2036).
- The French-mother-tongue population in Quebec could be between 6.6 million and 6.8 million by 2036, compared with 6.3 million in 2011. In Canada outside Quebec, it should decrease from 989,000 in 2011 to between 886,000 and 942,000 in 2036 according to the three main projection scenarios, but could grow to more than one million people in the event of an interprovincial migration similar to 1996-2001 period.
- The demographic weight of the French-mother-tongue population should decline both in Quebec (from 79% in 2011 to between 69% and 72% in 2036, in all three scenarios) and in the rest of Canada (from 3.8% in 2011 to approximately 2.7% in 2036). Other scenarios with different internal migration patterns show that the decrease in the demographic weight of the French-mother-tongue population in Canada outside Quebec could be more modest.
- The evolution of the language group populations, when defined by the language spoken most often at home (home language), should be similar to the evolution of the mother-tongue populations. By 2036, the English-home-language population could account for between 64% and 67% of the country’s total population. The French-home-language population, in turn, could represent 18%, and the non-official-home-language population, between 15% and 18%.
- In Canada outside Quebec, the English-home-language population should increase to between 26 million and 28 million in 2036, up from 22.4 million in 2011. However, its relative demographic weight could be between 79% and 83% in 2036, compared with 85% in 2011. In Quebec, the English-home-language population could increase to 1.2 million in 2036, in all scenarios, an increase over 858,000 in 2011. Its demographic weight could also rise from 10.7% in 2011 to roughly 12.6% by 2036.
- The French-home-language population could grow in Quebec to between 7 million and 7.3 million in 2036 from its 2011 level of 6.5 million. It could represent between 74% and 76% of the total provincial population, down from 81.6% in 2011. In Canada outside Quebec, this population would increase from 620,000 in 2011 to between 632,000 and 651,000 in 2036, except in the low-immigration scenario, which would see a decline (595,000 in 2036). Its relative weight in the total Canadian population outside Quebec would be 1.8% or 1.9% in 2036, compared with 2.4% in 2011.
- The projections indicate that the population whose first official language spoken (FOLS) is English could increase from 25.9 million in 2011 to between 31.9 million and 35.3 million in 2036 throughout Canada. Its weight in the total Canadian population would also rise, from 75.4% in 2011 to 77.8% in 2036.
- The English FOLS population could grow in the coming years, both in Quebec and in Canada outside Quebec. In Quebec, its demographic weight could increase from 13.6% in 2011 to between 16.3% and 17.5% in 2036. This increase would result from both international immigration and adoption of English as the language spoken most often at home by part of the other-mother-tongue population living in Quebec. In Canada outside Quebec, it could grow from 94.2% to about 95% in all scenarios.
- Throughout Canada, the French FOLS population could increase from 7.8 million in 2011 to between 8.6 million and 9.2 million in 2036, but its demographic weight could decline, from 23% in 2011 to below 21% in 2036 (with slight scenario-specific variations).
- In Quebec, the French FOLS population could reach between 7.6 and 8.1 million in 2036, up from 6.8 million in 2011. It would also increase in Canada outside Quebec by 2036, except in the low-immigration scenario. Accordingly, from just over 1 million in 2011, it could either decrease to 973,000 or increase to 1.1 million by 2036.
- In Quebec, the French FOLS population would account for around 82% of the total population in 2036, down from 85.4% in 2011. In Canada outside Quebec, its relative weight would represent 3.0% or 3.1% of the total population in 2036, down from 3.9% in 2011. The decrease would be more modest, or 3.6%, in the event of an interprovincial migration similar to 1996-2001 period.
The provinces and territories outside Quebec
- In the provinces outside Quebec and in the territories, the English-speaking population, whether defined by mother tongue, language spoken most often at home or FOLS, should increase between 2011 and 2036, except in Atlantic Canada.
- The demographic weight of the English-mother-tongue and English-home-language populations could decrease in all provinces and territories, while the English FOLS population could increase.
- According to the main projection scenarios, the French-speaking population (whether defined by mother tongue, language spoken most often at home or FOLS) could decrease in a number of provinces outside Quebec. The biggest decreases could occur in the Atlantic provinces and in Manitoba. Conversely, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia could see their French-speaking populations increase, primarily when considering the language spoken most often at home and FOLS.
- The demographic weight of the French-speaking populations could decline in the majority of provinces outside Quebec, regardless of the language group definition applied.
Language groups – population composition
- According to the projection scenarios, both the English- and French-speaking populations should see an increase in the share of the population aged 65 years and older and a slight decrease in the share of the population aged 0 to 14 years between 2011 and 2036.
- As in 2011, the English FOLS population is expected to be more ethnically diverse in 2036—measured here by the proportion of first- and second-generation immigrants (i.e., immigrants and their children)—than the French FOLS population. In the English FOLS population in Canada, 48% to 53% could have an immigrant background in 2036, up from 44% in 2011. In the French FOLS population, between 26% and 31% could have an immigrant background in 2036, up from 15% in 2011.
Evolution of the knowledge of official languages in Canada
- The projection results indicate that between 2011 and 2036, the number of Canadians able to speak French could increase from 10.2 million to 12.5 million (high-immigration scenario), 12.2 million (reference scenario) or 11.7 million (low-immigration scenario).
- In relative terms, 4this change would be characterized by a decrease in the percentage of the French-speaking population, from 29.8% (2011 NHS) to 27.9% (reference scenario), 28.4% (low-immigration scenario) or 27.6% (high-immigration scenario) in 2036.
- This evolution could vary greatly in Quebec—the only predominantly francophone province—and Canada outside Quebec. The proportion of French speakers in Quebec, which was 94.4% in 2011, would remain relatively stable through 2036, ranging from 93.2% in the high-immigration scenario to 93.9% in the low-immigration scenario.
- In Canada outside Quebec, while the French-speaking population would grow in number (from 2.7 million in 2011 to between 3.0 million and 3.3 million in 2036), its demographic weight could decline from 10.2% to between 9.3% and 9.5% over the same period according to the main three projection scenarios.
- In Quebec and in all of Canada, the English-speaking population should grow in both number and percentage. The relative share of English speakers could rise from 86% in 2011 to between 88.7% and 88.9% in 2036.
- While this percentage would remain relatively stable in Canada outside Quebec (from 97.6% in 2011 to between 97.4% and 98.0% in 2036), significant growth could occur in Quebec.
- In Quebec, the English-speaking population could increase from its 2011 NHS level of 3.8 million to between 5.3 million and 5.7 million in 2036. It would see its demographic weight rise from 47.6% in 2011 to over 57.5%.
Evolution of English–French bilingualism
- The projection results show that by 2036, the number of people who can conduct a conversation in both of Canada’s official languages could increase from 6 million in 2011 to between 7.7 million (low-immigration scenario) and 8.3 million (high-immigration scenario).
- The English–French bilingualism rate in Canada could increase from 17.5% in 2011 to between 18.4% and 18.8% in 2036.
- During the projection period, English–French bilingualism could move in opposite directions in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
- While in 2011, 43% of Quebec’s population reported being able to conduct a conversation in both official languages, this proportion could reach 52% in 2036, an increase of 9 percentage points, regardless of the immigration scenario. By contrast, outside Quebec, this rate could vary between 9.2% and 9.6% in 2036, down from 9.8 % in 2011.
- In Quebec, the number of people able to speak both English and French could rise from 3.4 million in 2011 to between 4.6 million and 5 million in 2036, an overall growth rate ranging from just under 35% to 44%.
- The strongest growth in English–French bilingualism in Canada could occur in Quebec’s French-mother-tongue population, rising from just under 39% in 2011 to close to 49% in 2036.
- In Canada outside Quebec, nearly 2.6 million people were able to speak English and French in 2011. This number is likely to increase by 509,000 to 731,000 (according to the immigration scenarios applied) to between just under 3.1 million and 3.3 million in 2036, a growth rate of between 20% and nearly 29%.
- The growing demographic weight represented by immigrants in the Canadian population and their lower rate of English–French bilingualism—compared with the Canadian-born population and in the scenarios applied—should exert downward pressure on the bilingualism rate in all of Canada.
- While immigrants with English as their first official language spoken exert downward pressure on English–French bilingualism in Canada (particularly due to a lower rate of bilingualism than the Canadian-born English-speaking population), immigration is not the only factor responsible for the overall decline.
- The erosion, even the loss of bilingualism among the English-speaking population, is common among young people living in regions where there is little contact between the English- and French-speaking populations. This full or partial loss would appear to occur once they leave secondary school.
- Our alternative scenarios reveal that, by hypothetically doubling the number of 5- to 14-year-olds in the English-speaking population who can speak both official languages and in maintaining the retention of their second-language skills, the bilingualism rate in the entire English-speaking population in Canada outside Quebec could be 13.6% in 2036, more than twice the level observed in 2011.
- In such a scenario, the rate of English–French bilingualism across Canada could be roughly 24% in 2036, nearly 6 percentage points more than what would be observed if second-language skills were not maintained.
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