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Mandarin, Punjabi and Cantonese most common languages in B.C. after English: StatCan

August 19, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Two out of every five British Columbians speak at least two languages, according to the latest census data from Statistics Canada.

That linguistic diversity is driven, in large part, by the 1.6 million British Columbians whose mother tongue isn’t English or French, Canada’s two official languages.

Speaking several languages offers a number of benefits, whether personal, developmental or economic, said Guofang Li, UBC professor and Canada Research Chair in transnational/global perspectives of language and literacy education of children and youth.

 

Speaking another language “opens another world,” she said, and increases overall brain activity and development. She also noted the economic benefits that arise, whether it’s language classes for children, higher wages for people who speak several languages or strengthened ties for international trade.

Li said that while one out of every four Canadians has a mother tongue other than English or French, only half that number spoke a language other than English or French at home, suggesting that fewer new Canadians are passing their mother tongue on to their children.

 

Some 17.1 per cent of British Columbians typically speak a language other than English or French at home, according to StatCan, more than four points higher than the Canadian average of 12.7 per cent. It is the second highest percentage of any province or territory, after Nunavut.

 

Mandarin, Punjabi and Cantonese are the most commonly spoken languages in B.C. after English, with nearly 500,000 people speaking one of the three languages at home on a regular basis.

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