1 in 5 Guelph residents have mom tongue aside from English or French, new census information reveals
A growing city, Guelph is seeing more and more languages become a part of its framework.
That is, according to recently released data from the 2021 census, which indicates that while English is by far the most spoken language in Guelph, more than 100 other languages make up the list of those first learned by its residents.
According to that data, the most common mother tongues outside of English are Punjabi, Mandarin and Italian.
In comparison, the percentage of native English speakers in Guelph is higher than the provincial (68.4 per cent) and national (54.9 per cent) percentages.
While English remains the dominant language in Guelph, the results from the latest census indicate a slow increase in the number of residents whose mother tongue is not an official language, growing from 16 per cent of residents in 1996 to 22 per cent in 2021, equating to approximately 14,420 additional people.
Those languages have also been changing in the past 25 years, shifting from more European languages to those originating from Asia. Back in 1996, the most common mother tongue that was not an official language in Canada was Italian. While Italian still cracked the top three in 2021, the number of residents had dropped nearly 40 percent, going from 3,175 people to 1,890 a quarter of a century later.
According to Statistics Canada, the one-in-five Guelphites with a mother tongue other than one of the country’s two official languages is lower than what is seen nationally. That data indicates approximately one in four Canadian residents, equating to approximately nine million people from coast to coast to coast, have a mother tongue that is neither English or French.
“This is a record high since the 1901 Census, when a question on mother tongue was first added,” a post on the federal agency’s website notes.
“Canada has a rich linguistic diversity. The languages known and spoken here are closely linked to the identity and culture of Canadians and to their relationship with their community. Languages are an integral part of the everyday lives of Canadians — be it in early childhood, at home, at school or at work — and extend beyond the country’s borders into broader cultural and historical contexts.”
While Guelph’s diversity of language is largely in line with the national average, it is not evenly distributed across the city. Census data indicates the west end has the highest rate of residents with a non-English mother tongue.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With more data released from the 2021 census, the Mercury Tribune is continuing to look at what these statistics mean in a growing city like Guelph, and how it is changing.