A new survey finds that many Canadians say they are more closely attached to their primary language than to other signs of identity, including the country they call home.
The survey, conducted by Leger for the Canadian Research Association, found that 88% of respondents said they had a deep sense of attachment to their primary language, while 85% reported the same for Canada.
The greater importance of the language is particularly noticeable among French and Indigenous speakers.
Reports of strong affiliation with the primary language exceeded all other identifiers, including geography, ethnic group, racial identity, and religious affiliation.
Of the identifiers considered in the survey, Canadians were the least likely to report a strong sense of belonging to a religious group.
Canadian Studies Association President Jack Jedwab said the survey’s findings highlight the important role language plays in human identity.
“I think many Canadians might be surprised by that, who might not intuitively think that language is as important as other forms of identity for attracting attention,” he said.
Jedwab said people should take care not to downplay the importance of language because of what language can mean to a community. He said that language has a dual function of facilitating communication and being an expression of culture.
“There may be a tendency for people to downplay the importance of other languages,” he said.
He added: “Historically, we haven’t paid enough attention to Indigenous languages, which we are seeing our federal government invest significantly in, trying to help maintain and revive. native languages.
The online survey was completed by 1,764 Canadians between July 8 and 10. It cannot be biased because online polls are not considered a truly random sample. .
For Canadians whose primary language is French, 91% said they have a deep sense of attachment to their language, compared with 67% who said they share the same sentiments for Canada.
In Quebec, many people report feeling more attached to their primary language than to the province.
Only 37% of Canadians say they have a strong sense of belonging to a religious group.
The findings come ahead of Statistics Canada’s latest census release of languages in the country, which is expected to be released on Wednesday.
Jedwab said the release of the census would be especially important for Quebec, where there is close scrutiny of the status of French compared to other languages.
Leger’s survey also found that more than half of French respondents said they knew English well enough to hold a conversation. This is in contrast to less than 1 in 10 English respondents in all provinces except Quebec and New Brunswick who said they could hold a conversation in French.
According to the most recent census, English-French bilingualism increased from 17.5% in 2011 to 17.9% in 2016, achieving the highest bilingual rate in Canadian history. More than 60% of the growth in bilingualism has been attributed to Quebec.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published on August 11, 2022.