A new study shows that new immigrants are surprised to discover that much of the Canadian population are not fluent in both of the nation’s official languages.
The study, conducted and released this month by researchers at the University of Calgary, found that most immigrants think Canadians are bilingual due to the country’s international reputation as being both English and French.
However, in reality the policy of two official languages is mostly restricted to issues of public service, resources and governance. According to the latest available census data from 2006, less than one-fifth of Canadians are bilingual – only 17.4 percent.
“[Immigrants] don’t see bilingualism as something the federal government is supposed to do,” said author of the study Albert Galiev, adding that some of the interviewees mentioned specifically that their idea of Canadians changed drastically upon arrival when told that someone speaks only one of the official languages.
Most of the Canadians who do speak both English and French are in the Central and Eastern Regions, and New Brunswick is the only province in Canada which officially operates under bilingualism.
The provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have all recently seen a dramatic jump in the number of newcomers arriving, but have some of the lowest numbers of bilingual citizens across the country. In 2006, only 0.7 percent of the Alberta population spoke French.
Despite these numbers, immigrants are still encouraging their children to learn both of Canada’s official languages. Galiev says that the parents are aware that speaking both English and French provides the next generation with many opportunities they may otherwise not have.
Source: National Post