The Benefits of Learning French in Canada

by Karolin Givergis

You might already know that Canada has two official languages: English and French. Therefore, it makes sense to wonder if there are any benefits to learning French if you want to immigrate to Canada.
In short, the answer is: yes. Canada offers many opportunities for skilled immigrants who are proficient in both English and French. You might have a better time getting acclimated. You might find yourself with more career options. Being bilingual can also boost your chances of immigrating to Canada through Express Entry.
But there is also a longer answer to that question. This article provides more information about the benefits of learning French in Canada.

Does Everyone Speak French in Canada?

Because Canada has both English-speaking and French-speaking provinces, you can easily get by without ever learning French.
However, French is the mother tongue of about 7.2 million Canadians. That’s about 20 percent of the population (compared with the 56 percent who speak English, according to the 2016 Census). It would be an asset for you, socially and professionally, to learn at least basic French.
Quebec is the predominantly French-speaking province of Canada. English is the primary language in the other nine provinces, but you will find francophone communities in each of them.
Many people find it surprising to learn that New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual! New Brunswick is home to approximately 3.1 percent of Canada’s francophone population.
The three territories (the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon) are also bilingual, but their residents speak indigenous languages and English (rather than English and French).
Here is additional information about speaking French in Canada:
  • French is one of the languages of the Parliament of Canada, its court system, and its federal civil service.
  • It is a relatively easy language for native speakers of English to learn because up to 50 percent of English vocabulary is derived from French.
  • If you are proficient in French, you can travel throughout Canada without hesitation. If you speak at least some conversational French in addition to English, you will be equipped to handle day-to-day language barriers, regardless of the province you are in.

Do College Students Need to Study French in Canada?

Here is what you need to keep in mind if you are thinking about continuing your education in Canada: If you go to any English-language college or university in Canada, you do not need to learn French (unless you are going to major in French, of course).
However, all of Quebec’s universities teach in French, except:
  • McGill University (Montreal)
  • Concordia University (Montreal)
  • Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke)
Outside of Quebec, there are a few schools that teach in French:
  • University of Moncton (New Brunswick)
  • University of Saint-Anne (Nova Scotia)

For the best of both worlds, there is the University of Ottawa, which is officially bilingual. If you enroll at the University of Ottawa, you only need to know the language in which you intend to study. For example, you do not need to speak French if you do not plan to study in French.

Where Else Is It an Advantage to Speak French?

It is essential for newcomers to take advantage of public services in Canada. You will probably need a lot of support and resources as you get accustomed to your new country.
That is why it is important to find out what language is preferred by the top service providers in the province or city where you hope to settle. A provincial or territorial government is obligated to provide public services, in the minority language, where there is a large enough population to justify it.
This means that if you are in an area where English is the minority language, you might still be able to find public services in English. However, if that is not the case, then you might learn that some of the services you need are available only in French. If this is true, you will find it beneficial to speak and understand French.
There are government-funded classes available to most newcomers who become permanent residents of Canada. One option is FSL/LINC (French as a Second Language/Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). Find out if there are other free resources that will help you develop your communication skills. 

Will Learning French Help You Get a Job in Canada?

One of the many benefits of bilingualism is that it can increase your employment opportunities. Canada has many jobs that are exclusively available to those who are proficient in both English and French.
If you are bilingual, you can also choose between jobs that are available only in English or only in French.
Here is more information about finding work in Canada if you speak French:
  • A study published in 2014 by Canadian Parents for French showed that 81 percent of supervisors considered bilingual employees an asset to the organization.
  • Multinational companies often seek employees who are fluent in more than one language and prioritize candidates who demonstrate such proficiency. You will have greater mobility within companies that have branches across Canada (and around the world).
  • You will be able to broaden your job search to any province, giving yourself a better chance to more quickly find a satisfactory position.
  • Since the year 2000, the federal public service (which values bilingualism) has had to recruit between 12,000 and 15,000 employees to replace retiring public servants.
  • In Canada, employees who speak both French and English are eligible for a bilingualism bonus, which is an $800 stipend from the government.
In Canada, there are many benefits to learning French. If you are thinking about immigrating to Canada, consider studying French several months before your planned arrival—so you can be proficient when you arrive.
However, you will also find plenty of opportunities to start learning the language once you get settled.
You do not need to speak French to live in Canada, because most provinces have an English-speaking majority. But if you can speak French, it will open more doors for you socially and professionally. It will allow you to more fully embrace the beautiful multiculturalism of Canada.

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