English overwhelmingly remains the language of Red Deer and Central Alberta, but the Filipino language Tagalog is now the city’s second most spoken mother tongue.
Statistics Canada’s 2011 census language information released on Wednesday identified English as the mother tongue of 87.5 per cent — or 78,220 — of Red Deerians and more than 90 per cent for people who live in other Central Alberta communities. Mother tongue is the first language learned at home and still understood.
Across Canada, a total of 57.8 per cent of respondents spoke English, 21.7 per cent spoke French and 20.6 per cent spoke other languages.
Red Deer’s population reporting a mother tongue other than English or French rose to 11 per cent from 8.9 per cent in 2006.
Tagalog was named mother tongue by 2,150 city residents, or 2.4 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent in 2006 and a third more than Spanish speakers, who remained at 1.7 per cent.
Since the 2006 census, Tagalog numbers increased tenfold in Olds and Rocky and doubled in Ponoka. Sylvan Lake and Innisfail, which had no Tagalog speakers in 2006, recorded .7 and 1.7 per cent respectively last year.
Nationally, 64 per cent more Canadians reported speaking Tagalog at home.
The proportion of Canadians who reported speaking two or more languages at home was 17.5 per cent in 2011, up from 14.2 per cent.
Sid Selirio, a Philippine-Canadian Association of Red Deer and District board member, credited the Tagalog increase to more immigration from the Philippines.
“There’s so many, especially with the arrival of temporary foreign workers,” said the Lacombe man, adding “Even if the kids are going to school, they’ll still speak it at home.”
The Central Alberta Refugee Effort’s executive director echoed those thoughts.
“We’ve noticed a big uptick in the number of Filipinos, part from immigration, part from temporary foreign workers,” said Victor Doerksen.
CARE provides Tagalog interpreters to help school teachers and immigrant parents talk, yet the majority seeking the agency’s help speak Spanish.
“If they already have a knowledge of English, they wouldn’t necessarily seek out our services.”
The growth of Tagalog and Spanish speaking households continues a rise, as identified in a 2008 city demographic report, which said those language speakers made up a third of city allophones, those whose first language is neither Canadian official language.
French use made small increases in most Central Alberta communities, although it dropped slightly in the city, Penhold and Rimbey.
Chinese use stayed constant in most communities, while German and Dutch use declined.
Blackfalds reported higher numbers for every language except Chinese, thanks to its rapid growth since 2006.
The 2011 census reported 191 different languages as mother tongues among the country’s population. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that counts language in its census.