What languages should I use to connect with my audience?

Want your video to reach an audience of new Canadians? Be prepared to speak to them in their own language. But what languages do they speak? The answer varies from city to city, neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

Nationally, 4.7 million people most often speak a language other than English or French at home. Incredibly, 1.8 million of them live in Toronto. That means almost one third of Toronto’s population speaks a language other than English or French at home most of the time.

The numbers are less dramatic in Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary, but nevertheless, all have hundreds of thousands of residents who speak an immigrant language at home.

But which immigrant language? The answers vary from city to city, and suburb to suburb.

Asian languages dominate

In the Greater Toronto Area as a whole, the leading immigrant languages are: Cantonese (8.8%), Punjabi (8.0%), Mandarin and other Chinese languages (7.0%), Urdu (5.9%) and Tamil (5.7%). But in York Region, the city’s northern suburbs, the leading immigrant languages are Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian and Farsi. In Mississauga, the most common third languages are Urdu and Polish, while in Brampton an incredible 15% speak Punjabi at home.

In Vancouver, Punjabi and the Chinese languages account for 40% of immigrant languages spoken at home. And in Montreal, the top three are Arabic, Spanish and Italian.

But the fastest-growing language spoken at home in Canada is Tagalog, the main language of the Philippines. That number grew by 64% from 2006 to 2011. Across Canada, nearly 280,000 people spoke Tagalog at home in 2011.

York Region Community and Health Services released this recent video in Mandarin,
Cantonese, Russian, Farsi, Tamil and Italian.

Check the breakdown in your region

So, what does this tell you? When deciding which languages to choose for your public-information video or marketing campaign, check the local breakdown of the Statistics Canada Linguistic Characteristics of Canadians report. You can find these breakdowns for Peel Region, York Region, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau, etc. Just Google <any city> languages spoken at home.

And when you’re ready to translate your audio-visual or multimedia production into these or any other languages, please get in touch.

Eric Geringas
Versioning producer. Documentary filmmaker. Factual TV director. Problem solver.