When It Comes to Language, Canada Is Diverse, Radio Music Is Not

When in metro Vancouver, listen to the radio and hear the Anglophones sing their catchy songs; walk into the Metrotown mall and take a good look around you. How many Anglophones do you hear in the crowds? This is a confusing mismatch and one of the unacknowledged reasons why mainstream radio is losing its appeal.

Statistics Canada recently released 2016 census data on languages in Canada. It is a reminder that we are not just a heavily multicultural and multiethnic country but a multilingual one as well. As such, it would seem fitting that the music played on the radio is a reflection of such linguistic diversity. It has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that people can enjoy songs recorded in a language incomprehensible to them. In recent times, “Gangnam Style,” a Korean language song, and “Despacito,” a Spanish language one, have spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Canadian charts. There is incredibly good pop music being made in many languages around the world – Chinese, Danish, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Arabic, you name it.

Metropolitan centres in particular are replete with linguistic diversity, and yet radio is still almost exclusively playing English language songs. This is not the case in much of the rest of the world. In Shanghai, for example, stations play songs not only in Mandarin but in foreign tongues for the locals: Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, English, and French. What’s good gets played regardless of language. Canada often boasts about its diversity, but this diversity is not reflected in the way that radio caters to those in reach of its broadcast. It seems oblivious to the reality of the demographics within its scope. Yes, there are multicultural stations, but those are conducted in various languages. The concept of having a radio station conducted in English, (or French for French Canada) playing music mostly in English (or French) but also some songs in other languages is one that those Canadians boasting about their country’s diversity seem unable to wrap their heads around.

It might be time to rethink the music that gets broadcasted. Perhaps engaging more people will rekindle broadcaster fortunes. It is important to note that the airing a song in an Allophone tongue is not simply to attract speakers of that language, but as stated above, it is to come with recognition that all have the potential to enjoy it. For example, a catchy Cantonese song may not simply draw Cantonese speakers, but Anglophones, Francophones, and other Allophones have the potential to relish it also.

Mother tongue refers to the first language a person learns. Fracophone refers to one whose first language was French, Anglophone English, and Allophone another language, something Statistics Canada refers to as “immigrant language”.

In Canada, there are now slightly more Allophones than Francophones. Regarding metropolitan areas with over a million people, in Montreal, there are significantly more Allophones than Anglophones. In Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, Allophones far outnumber Francophones, while Francophones significantly outnumber Allophones in Ottawa. In Toronto, French is not a top 10 language, and Allophones make up 46.5 of the population!

Canada-wide, the most common mother tongue after English and French is Mandarin Chinese. In both Montreal and Ottawa, it is Arabic. Cantonese is second (after English) in both Vancouver and Toronto. In both Calgary and Edmonton, it is Filipino (Tagalog).

Below are lists of the 10 most common mother tongues in Canada and the 1 million plus metropolises. To see more, the link to the Statistics Canada interactive page is here.

Canada

English 20,251,585
French 7,393,830
Immigrant languages 7,749,120
Aboriginal languages 213,230
1 English 20,251,585
2 French 7,393,830
3 Mandarin 610,830
4 Cantonese 594,030
5 Punjabi 543,495
6 Filipino 510,425
7 Spanish 495,090
8 Arabic 486,530
9 Italian 407,460
10 German 404,745

Toronto

English 3,293,670
French 92,835
Aboriginal languages 735
Immigrant languages 2,738,800
1 English 3,293,670
2 Cantonese 260,355
3 Mandarin 233,880
4 Punjabi 186,030
5 Italian 164,510
6 Filipino 161,515
7 Urdu 148,625
8 Spanish 136,460
9 Tamil 121,785
10 Portuguese 111,445

Montreal

French 2,650,710
English 555,510
Aboriginal languages 910
Immigrant languages 1,007,045
1 French 2,650,710
2 English 555,510
3 Arabic 181,440
4 Spanish 129,860
5 Italian 109,310
6 Mandarin 41,835
7 Greek 40,890
8 Romanian 34,325
9 Portuguese 33,105
10 Russian 27,640

Vancouver

English 1,393,365
French 33,345
Aboriginal languages 1,145
Immigrant languages 1,091,265
1 English 1,393,365
2 Cantonese 193,030
3 Mandarin 180,170
4 Punjabi 163,400
5 Filipino 78,830
6 Korean 47,920
7 Persian 43,235
8 Spanish 39,625
9 French 33,345
10 Hindi 28,525

Calgary

English 976,300
French 26,115
Aboriginal languages 1,015
Immigrant languages 418,545
1 English 976,300
2 Filipino 47,840
3 Punjabi 42,140
4 Cantonese 36,325
5 Spanish 30,610
6 Mandarin 29,760
7 French 26,115
8 Arabic 21,810
9 Urdu 19,500
10 Vietnamese 14,435

Ottawa

English 675,900
French 422,230
Aboriginal languages 1,195
Immigrant languages 256,440
1 English 675,900
2 French 422,230
3 Arabic 47,630
4 Mandarin 20,710
5 Spanish 18,610
6 Cantonese 11,045
7 Italian 10,465
8 Persian 7,885
9 Portuguese 7,470
10 Filipino 7,430

Edmonton

English 963,425
French 32,790
Aboriginal languages 3,390
Immigrant languages 341,695
1 English 963,425
2 Filipino 42,525
3 French 32,790
4 Punjabi 30,110
5 Cantonese 23,955
6 Mandarin 20,675
7 Arabic 20,375
8 Spanish 19,840
9 German 15,845
10 Ukrainian 12,750

 

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