Toronto’s Languages

TORONTO’S LANGUAGES

Toronto is the most linguistically diverse city in Canada and one of the most diverse in the world. Approximately 200 different languages are spoken here, and 45% of the residents speak a mother tongue other than French or English, according to the 2011 census.

Some of the non-official languages are spoken by large populations. Seven languages have more than 50,000 speakers in the city: Cantonese, Italian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Mandarin and Portuguese, while 55 others have between 1000 and 50,000 speakers. Other languages are spoken by only a handful of people in Toronto or in some cases a single speaker. Aboriginal languages represented here include Ojibway, Inuktitut, Mi’kmaq and Dene. For more information on Toronto’s languages, see this demographics document detailing the language data from the 2011 census.

There are other languages spoken in Toronto that do not appear in the census. In some cases, small languages may be excluded due to the reporting criteria. In other cases, speakers themselves may not list their native language because they are not sure what name to give it or are not sure if their mother tongue should be considered a separate language or a dialect of a more dominant language.

How many endangered languages are spoken in Toronto? We do not yet know. Based upon our connections in various communities and our understanding of the patterns of immigration in the city, we believe that there are several dozen endangered languages spoken here. One of our goals is to provide a clearer answer to this question.

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