How many Canadians speak French?

French is the mother tongue of 22.3 percent of the Canadian population or about 7 million Canadians. The majority of French speakers lives in the province of Quebec, where French is the sole and majority official language. About 95 percent of Quebec’s residents speak French as their second or first language. Large French-speaking communities live in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba. There are smaller francophone communities in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Alberta, and many of them are supported by French-language institutions.

In Ontario, the proportion of immigrants whose mother tongue is French is much lower (5.9 percent) than those whose native language is English (25 percent). Outside Quebec, French-speaking communities have received little benefit from immigration. French is the mother tongue of about 2.5 percent of all immigrants coming to Canada. The majority of French-speaking immigrants in the country settle in the province of Quebec. The rest are distributed among the 3 territories and 9 other provinces, with a significant percentage of immigrants living in Ontario.

Canadian French is an umbrella term for different dialects, including Acadian French, Brayon French, Joual, and Chiac. Acadian French is spoken in some parts of Newfoundland, Quebec, and in the Canadian Maritimes. Regions with significant Acadian populations include Nova Scotia (11,180), New Brunswick (326,220), and Ontario (8,745). In New Brunswick, Acadian communities live on the eastern and northern shores of New Brunswick. There are Acadian communities in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island such as Clare, Isle Madame, and Chéticamp. Chiac is a French dialect that originated in New Brunswick and incorporates many English linguistic rules, sayings, words, and pronunciations. The number of native speakers is unknown. Joual is a French dialect spoken by the working class in Montreal. Like other class and regional variations, this dialect is celebrated by some and stigmatized by others. Magoua is a basilectal dialect spoken between Maskinongé and Trois-Rivières. Of all Quebec French varieties, Magoua is the most conservative and has preserved characteristics of Cajun French and Metis French.

Quebec French and related varieties are spoken by francophones in Labrador, Western Canada, Ontario, and New England in the U.S. About 6 million people in Quebec speak Quebec French, and there are 700,000 native speakers across Canada. Newfoundland Peninsular French or Newfoundland French is a French dialect spoken by Canadians on the Port au Port Peninsula. There are less than 500 native speakers, making Newfoundland French a moribund language. Michif and Metis French are spoken in the prairies and are languages of the Metis communities. Michif is classified as an endangered language, with 500 – 1,000 native speakers. It is a unique French dialect using Cree verbs, French nouns, and local vocabulary borrowed from Dene, Ojibway, and other Indian languages. It is believed that Michif originated as a secret code and a badge of identity of Metis who were raised in both languages. Today, the majority of Michif speakers are fluent in neither French nor Cree. Some leading linguists have classed Michif as a moribund language, which is headed for extinction.