The Benefits of Being Bilingual: French Literacy in Canada
by Sigrid Roman
As a country with two official languages, Canada offers many opportunities for skilled immigrants who are proficient in English and French. Being able to communicate well in either language is vital in order to succeed in Canada. Being able to communicate well in both languages is better, and gives you a competitive edge over someone who speaks only one language.
The French Language
In 1867, French became one of the two languages in Canada that could be used in parliamentary debates as well as any Canadian court established under the Constitution Act. Its official status was later confirmed in 1969 under the first Official Languages Act which ensured that every Canadian would have access to federal services in the official language—English or French—of their choice.
Since then, numerous events and policies have continued to frame the French language as a fundamental and important characteristic of Canadian identity. The most notable is the Constitution of 1982 which clearly states the importance of language rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms. French, it would seem, is here to stay.
Nearly 10 Million Canadians Speak French
According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 Census of Population, approximately 10 million people reported being able to speak in French. Of these, 7.9 million people reported they speak French at home on a regular basis.
In recent years, there has been a slight decline in Canada of Canadians (outside of Quebec) who are fluent in French. However, with a strong government mandate, and companies continually seeking employees who are able to communicate in both English and French, there are still many reasons why you should consider improving or marketing your French language skills in Canada.
Benefit # 1: It’s good for business: New Brunswick, one of the francophone regions of Canada, reports that its bilingual workforce has been a key reason why it has attracted big corporate players. As a result, being bilingual might be a key reason why you have a better chance of being hired in bilingual organizations.
Benefit # 2: Being bilingual increases your opportunities in your job search: Statistically speaking, knowing more than one language increases the options you have within the job market. Whether it is because the workplace needs someone who can get into contact with a certain community or they have a special need for language-based service (i.e., interpretation and translation services), your French skills can become important in such situations.
Benefit # 3: You can work in French-speaking parts of Canada. Relocating from a city in Canada that you’ve already settled in may not be an easy choice but there are opportunities to consider that may not only improve your job prospects, but also your quality of life. Speaking French will give you the freedom to work anywhere in Canada.
Benefit # 4: You get paid more: If by any chance, you have found your bilingual opportunity, chances are you are paid more for it. As this Globe and Mail article points out:
“[Canadian] men who know both languages earn an average income 3.8% higher than those who know English only. Bilingual women earn 6.6% more.”
Benefit # 5: Being bilingual is better for your brain: The ability to speak more than one language is true for many skilled immigrants who settle in Canada. It is important to cultivate that ability, not only for the reasons listed above but also because it might actually be good for your brain. As stated in this Guardian article:
“A superior ability to concentrate, solve problems and focus are, of course, valuable in everyday life. But perhaps the most exciting benefit of bilingualism occurs in ageing, when executive function typically declines: bilingualism seems to protect against dementia.”
If you speak other languages in addition to English, you are off to a great start already.
For all of the benefits listed above, and more, consider adding French as one of your professional languages. Doing so will expand the possibilities of your career path in Canada.