January 5, 2018 – Contrary to the general view that knowledge of French is mandatory for immigrants to settle and reside in the province of Quebec, the 2016 Census shows that Montreal is the most trilingual city in the country.
As compared to 11% in Toronto and 10% in Vancouver, more than 21% of Montreal’s population can speak at least three languages. More than 800,000 residents of Montreal can understand and converse in at least three languages and four out of every ten immigrants in the city are trilingual.
Despite posturing like a motion requiring store clerks the province to greet customers only in French instead of a combination of French and English receiving unanimous support of all lawmakers, the hard data lends credence to the view that Montreal, and the province in general, is comfortable with linguistic diversity.
Most immigrants coming to Quebec know French, English, as well as their native languages, which has contributed to the transition from a bilingual to a trilingual city. Between 2011 and 2016, around 42% of all immigrants who came to Montreal were bilingual while more than 33% of all immigrants were trilingual.
With the Quebec 2018 Immigration Plan seeking to attract 31,300 economic immigrants through the year, preference for francophone immigrants may actually help the province attract skilled workers from a bigger and more competitive pool of talent.
While politicians may fret over the city’s bilingual, now trilingual, characteristics, the revelation that Montreal is the country’s most trilingual city elicited very little surprise among the city’s residents. Exposed to a smattering of English, French, Spanish, German, and other languages, residents associate the diversity of languages as an integral part of the city’s identity.
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