Hamilton has a new top non-official language


Published August 25, 2022 at 11:57 am

Immigration patterns have resulted in a change atop the language-diversity leaderboard in Hamilton.

For the first time, Arabic is the most commonly spoken non-official language in the city, with Italian now in second. Spanish ranks third, according to the 2021 Canadian census.

Nationally, roughly 1 in 8 Canadians (12.7 per cent) speak a language other than French or English at home. Four out of 10 can converse in multiple languages, and 1 in 11 can converse in at least three.

Statistics Canada census compilers found that 19,205 residents of Hamilton live in a household where there is a knowledge of Arabic. It is also the mother tongue of 12,560 residents, and is the language most often spoken at home for 8,270.

The ’21 census was the first since refugees of the Syrian civil war fully resettled in Canada. About 75,000 Syrians  came to Canada from late 2015 to 2021, with many making new homes in Southern Ontario.

The character and culture of Hamilton has been greatly influenced by a wave of immigration from the Sicily region of Italy that took place primarily in the approximate quarter-century following the end of the Second World War in 1945. The census found 18,250 Hamiltonians live in a home where there is a knowledge of Italian. It is the mother tongue of 12,490 residents, and is most often spoken in the home of 3,810.

Hamilton has also seen more arrivals from Latin America in recent years. That is likely a contributor to Spanish ranking in “tercer puesto.” About 15,850 residents have a knowledge of the language. It is the mother tongue for 9,930, and is most commonly spoken in the homes of 5,795 residents.

Chinese languages, Portuguese, Polish and Punjabi claim the 4 through 7 slots.

The top three each have more native speakers in Hamilton than French, which is one of the two official languages of Canada. Some 6,195 residents state that French is their mother tongue, and 6,410 say it is their most used of the two official languages. About 32,885 residents have a knowledge of French.

Both the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Centre and Workforce Planning Hamilton published infographics about local language diversity on Thursday morning.

As far as official bilingualism goes, 6 per cent of Hamilton residents are fluent in English and French. That is below the rate of 10.8 per cent across Ontario.

The raw numbers from Statistics Canada are viewable at statcan.gc.ca.

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