More than 53 languages were spoken by Canada’s original peoples. Some of these are disappearing. The most common indigenous languages spoken today are Cree, Anishnaabe and Inuktitut.

English and French are Canada’s official languages. All Canadian government documents are written in both languages. Federal courts operate in French and English. Translators and interpreters work in Ottawa to ensure Canada’s parliament functions in both languages. All goods sold in stores must be labelled in French and English.

To be bilingual in Canada means to be able to speak both English and French. An anglophone is someone whose mother tongue is English. A francophone is a French speaker. The word allophone is used in Quebec to describe someone whose mother language is neither English nor French. Not everyone speaks both languages. Most Canadians speak English. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province. Quebec is officially a French-speaking province. Four-fifths of Québécois speak French as their first language. Quebec has special language laws that promote the use of French.

There are regional variations in the language. English speakers in some areas punctuate their sentences with the word "eh". Quebec slang, which uses many English words, is called joual. Newfoundlanders use many words that are unique to their province. Immigrants to Canada bring their languages with them. After English and French, Cantonese and Mandarin are the most common languages spoken in Canada. Italian, Punjabi, German, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Arabic, Dutch, Tagalog (Filipino), Greek and Vietnamese are just a few of the languages spoken by thousands of Canadians.

  English   French
  Yes   Oui
  No   Non
  Please   S'il vous plaît
  Thank you   Merci
  Hello / Hi   Bonjour
  Goodbye   Au revoir
  See you later       A la prochain
  My name is...   Je m'appelle
  Where is..?   Où est...?
  How are you?   Comment ça va?  
  How much?   Combien?

  Did you know?
Over the past 25 years the top three non-official languages spoken in Canadian homes have changed significantly. In 1971 the top three were Italian, German and Ukrainian. In 1996 they were Chinese, Italian and Punjabi.