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French is the mother tongue of about 6.7 million Canadiansmarker (22.7% of the Canadian population). While most native French speakers in Canadamarker live in Quebecmarker, where it is the majority and sole official language, about one million native francophones live in other provinces, forming sizeable minorities in Manitobamarker, New Brunswickmarker which is officially a bilingual province and Ontariomarker and significantly smaller communities in Albertamarker, Nova Scotiamarker and Saskatchewanmarker. Many, but not all, of these communities are supported by French-language institutions.

While French, with no specification as to dialect or variety, has the status of one of Canadamarker's two official languages at the federal government level, English is the native language of the majority of Canadians. The federal government provides services and operates in both languages. French is the sole official language in Quebecmarker at the provincial level and is co-official with English in New Brunswickmarker. The provincial governments of Ontariomarker, New Brunswickmarker, and Manitobamarker are required to provide services in French where justified by the number of francophones (French-speakers). However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires all provinces to provide primary and secondary education to their official-language minorities at public expense. The French used in Canada is regulated by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), previously known as the Office de la langue française (OLF).

French dialects in Canada

As a consequence of geographical seclusion and, due to the British Conquest, political isolation of Canada from France, the French language in Canada presents three distinct but related dialects. They share certain features which distinguish them from European French. The name Canadian French is now usually viewed as an umbrella term for all of these varieties.

  • Quebec French is spoken in Quebecmarker. Closely related varieties descended from it are spoken by francophone communities in Ontariomarker, Western Canada, Labrador and even in the New Englandmarker region of the United Statesmarker, and differ primarily by their greater conservatism. The term Laurentian French has limited currency as an umbrella term for these varieties, and Quebec French, somewhat confusingly, is also used. The term Canadian French was formerly used to refer to this dialect specifically,Francard and Latin, in Le régionalisme lexical, write: "Le français du Québec a rayonné en Ontario et dans l'ouest du Canada, de même qu'en Nouvelle-Angleterre. [...] Le français québécois et le français acadien peuvent être regroupés sous l'appellation plus large de français canadien2, laquelle englobe aussi le français ontarien et le français de l'Ouest canadien. Ces deux derniers possèdent des traits caractéristiques qui leur sont propres aujourd'hui dans l'ensemble canadien et qui s'expliquent surtout par un phénomène de conservatisme, mais il s'agit de variétés qui sont historiquement des prolongements du français québécois." The footnote reads: "Il faut noter ici que le terme de français canadien avait autrefois un sens plus restreint, désignant le français du Québec et les variétés qui s'y rattachent directement, d'où l'emploi à cette époque de canadianisme pour parler d'un trait caractéristique du français du Québec." (presumably because Canada and Acadia were distinct parts of New France, and even British North America until 1867), but is now not usually felt to exclude Acadian French.
  • Acadian French is spoken by the Acadians in the Canadian Maritimes and some parts of Quebecmarker and Newfoundlandmarker. It is the ancestor of Cajun French. Acadian French shares many traits with Quebec French.
  • Métis French or Métis, along with Michif, is one of the traditional languages of the Métis people, and is spoken in the prairies.
  • Newfoundland French is spoken by a limited population in Newfoundlandmarker. It is an endangered dialect.

These dialects are not Old French – a much earlier stage of the language that was spoken during the High Middle Ages. The origins of Quebec French lie in 17th century and 18th century Parisian French, with some influences from regional varieties of early Modern French, also known as Classical French, and of other Oïl languages (such as Norman, Picard, Poitevin and Saintongeais) that French colonists brought to New France. The influence of these dialects on Acadian French is acknowledged to be stronger than on Quebec French. The three dialects can also be historically and geographically associated with three of the five former colonies of New France, respectively Canada, Acadia, and Terre-Neuve .

In addition, there is a mixed language known as Michif which is based on Cree and French. It is spoken by Métis communities in Manitobamarker and Saskatchewanmarker as well as adjacent areas of the United States.

Finally, more recent immigration (post-World War II) has brought francophone immigrants from around the world, and with them other French dialects.

Labelling and dominance of Quebec French

Within Canadian French, Quebec French is so dominant that they are often considered one and the same.The liberal use of the label "Canadian French" is in some ways similar to the English and French uses of "Flemish" / "le flamand". These terms are almost always over-generalized to signify Dutch - the standard, common, and official language spoken by the Flemish Community of Belgiummarker. For a detailed explanation, see the introductions for the articles on Flemish and on Dutch.

Speakers of Acadian French tend to view the more formal varieties of Quebec French as a linguistic standard for three main reasons:

  1. While being the only province whose majority is francophone, Quebec is also home to the majority of francophones in Canada.
  2. The Quebec government has taken legislative action to improve the social and legal status of the French language through massive terminological work, the Charter of the French Language, and the Office québécois de la langue française.
  3. On a pan-Canadian level, Quebec French overwhelmingly dominates francophone culture and the French-language media.

The language across Canada


Quebecmarker is the only province whose sole official language is French. Today, 81.4 percent of Quebecers are francophone. However, many of the services the provincial government provides are available in English for the sizeable anglophone population of the province (notably in Montrealmarker). For native French speakers, Quebec French is noticeably different in pronunciation and vocabulary from the French of Francemarker, sometimes called Metropolitan French, but they are easily mutually intelligible in their formal varieties, and after moderate exposure, in most of their informal ones as well. The differences are due primarily to changes that have occurred in Quebec French and Parisian French since the 18th century, when Britain gained possession of Canada.Different regions of Quebec have their own varieties: Gaspé Peninsulamarker, Côte-Nordmarker, Quebec Citymarker, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Outaouais, and Abitibi-Témiscamingue have characteristic differences in pronunciation as well as vocabulary. For example, depending on one's region, the ordinary word for "kettle" can be bouilloire, bombe, or canard.

In Quebec, the French language is of paramount importance. For example, the stop signs are written ARRÊT (which means STOP in English), even if other French countries, like Francemarker, use STOP. On a similar note, movies originally made in languages other than French (mostly movies made originally in English) are named more literally in Quebecmarker than they are in Francemarker (eg. The movie The Love Guru is called Love Gourou in France, but in Quebec it is called Le Gourou de l'amour) Also, Québécois don't always use the same words as the French, who are more tolerant of direct borrowings from English. Here are some examples:

English Quebec French Metropolitan French
weekend fin de semaine week-end
e-mail courriel e-mail
spam pourriel spam
(to) chat clavarder chater
podcasting baladodiffusion podcasting
caribou caribou renne
beverage breuvage boisson
breakfast déjeuner petit-déjeuner
lunch dîner déjeuner
dinner souper dîner

Atlantic Canada

Present-day Acadian communities

Commonly known as Acadian French, the variety of French spoken in Atlantic Canadamarker possesses features different from those of Quebec French. It is historically related to Cajun French.

French is one of the official languages, with English, of the province of New Brunswickmarker. Apart from Quebecmarker, this is the only other Canadian province that recognizes French as an official language. Approximately one third of New Brunswickers are francophone, by far the largest Acadian population in Canada. The Acadian community is concentrated in primarily rural areas along the border with Quebec and the eastern coast of the province. Francophones in the Madawaskamarker area may also be identified as Brayon, although sociologists have disputed whether the Brayons represent a distinct francophone community, a subgroup of the Acadians or an extraprovincial community of Québécois.

The only major Acadian population centre is Monctonmarker, home to the main campus of the Université de Moncton. Francophones are, however, in the minority in Moncton.

In addition to New Brunswick, Acadian French has speakers in portions of mainland Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotiamarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker, and Newfoundlandmarker. In these provinces, the percentage of francophones is much smaller than in New Brunswick. In some communities, French is an endangered language.

Although not traditionally part of Acadia, the Magdalen Islandsmarker, an archipelago of nine small islands belonging to Quebec, also speak Acadian French.

Newfoundlandmarker is also home to its own distinct dialect of French, Newfoundland French.


Although French is the native language of just over half a million Canadians in Ontariomarker, francophone Ontarians represent only 4.4 percent of the province's population. They are concentrated primarily in the Eastern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario regions, near the border with Quebecmarker, although they are also present in smaller numbers throughout the province. One-third of Franco-Ontarians no longer speak the language at home.

The province has no official language defined in law, although it is a largely English-speaking province. Ontario law requires that the provincial Legislative Assembly operate in both English and French (individuals can speak in the Assembly in the official language of their choice), and requires that all provincial statutes and bills be made available in English and French. Furthermore, under the French Language Services Act, individuals are entitled to communicate with the head or central office of any provincial government department or agency in French, as well as to receive all government services in French in 25 designated areas in the province, selected according to minority population criteria. The provincial government of Ontariomarker's website is bilingual.

Also, there are several French speaking communities on Military bases in Ontario, such as the French speaking community at CFB Trentonmarker. these communities are founded by French Canadians in the Canadian Forces who are stationed in Military residences together.

Western Canada

Manitoba also has a significant Franco-Manitoban community, centred especially in the St. Bonifacemarker area of Winnipegmarker, but also in many surrounding villages. The provincial government of Manitobamarker boasts the only bilingual website of the Prairies; the Canadian constitution makes French an official language in Manitoba for the legislature and courts. Saskatchewan also has a Fransaskois community, as does Alberta with its Franco-Albertans. British-Columbia, on the other hand, hosts only a small francophone population, the Franco-Columbians.

Although not a dialect of French, Michif, a unique mixed language derived from Cree and French, is spoken by a small number of Métis living mostly in the province of Manitobamarker.

Northern Canada

French is an official language in each of the three northern territories: the Yukonmarker, the Northwest Territoriesmarker, and Nunavutmarker. Francophones in the Yukon are called Franco-Yukonnais, those from the Northwest Territories, Franco-Ténois (from the French acronym for the Northwest Territories, T.N.-O.), and those in Nunavut, Franco-Nunavois.

French-speaking communities in Canada outside of Quebec

See also


  1. Statistics Canada
  2. OLF
  3. Profile of languages in Canada: Provinces and territories

External links

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