A new study has found that Canadian immigrants are increasingly able to retain their first language.
The study, released this month by Statistics Canada, found that in 2006, 55 percent of children born to immigrants were able to communicate with their parents in their native language. That number is a large increase over the 41 percent figure reported in 1981.
The rate of language retention was higher for some nationalities than others. Chinese, Punjabi, and Persian speakers were more likely to retain the language than Italian or Dutch-speaking immigrants.
As one large factor for the overall increase, the report points to strong reunification policies that were implemented by Canadian governments since the early 1980s. Many family members were able to immigrate to Canada through the sponsorship stream, and thus were able to speak their mother-tongue with relatives upon their arrival.
For second and third-generation immigrants, the issue of marriage becomes an important factor in determining whether the native languages are retained. Children who are born to mixed-language couples are less likely to learn either of the parents’ original languages.
“It is the ‘marriage market,’ more than any other factor, that determines how intergenerational language transmission changes over time,” said the report, noting that language retention rates drop from 40 to 10 percent from second to third-generation immigrants, respectively.
Source: Toronto Star