By: Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Q.C. The Afro News
In Canada today, there are over 200 languages spoken. From the speakers of Punjabi in Vancouver, to Russian in the Prairies, and Gaelic in Cape Breton, Canada is home to a diverse number of languages. In the same way that our Official Languages – French and English – and the Aboriginal languages have defined Canada as its founding mother tongues, languages from around the world are also defining us.
There is a growing importance and need to embrace a linguistic plurality, both across Canada and in our Vancouver metropolitan area, through the teaching and promotion of all languages spoken in Canada. This needs to be supported by our governments with provisions of resources and support, and by us as a community.
As a local example, just over four out of ten (41%) of the people in the Vancouver metropolitan area are those who speak a language other than French or English in Canada. Canada’s South Asian community of the west coast has greatly contributed to this number.
According to figures of the 2006 Census, Punjabi was the fourth most frequently reported mother tongue, showing an increase of 34% from 2001. Similarly, of the 10 largest minority groups in Canada, the Urdu-speaking population increased from 87,000 in 2001, to 156,000 in 2006: an increase of 80%. In African language, Yoruba increased 45% and Swahili 40%. If immigration patterns remain as they are, these numbers are likely to continue increasing.
Language education has an important role to play in strengthening Canada’s multilingual communities, and our identity as a multicultural nation, by providing an intercultural perspective on our country through language learning and appreciation.
However, the efforts of many language instructors are being hampered by inadequate teaching resources and outdated reference materials. I believe I must work on your behalf towards a viable, permanent solution in order to properly address these shortcomings.
In order to properly address the issues facing second-language teachers and learners alike, Canada must adopt a National Language Strategy that will call for the promotion and education of the four groups of Canadian languages: English, French, Aboriginal and International/Heritage languages.
As the Canadian Languages Association has suggested, the major objectives of the Strategy must be: (a) to improve the teaching and learning of languages by making up-to-date reference and teaching materials available to teachers and students; (b) to increase the number of people studying languages; (c) to work with the provinces to provide effective and equitable funding for language programming at the school board and community levels; and (d) to raise awareness of the importance of multilingualism to all Canadians.
By embracing a National Language Strategy, we are making a serious commitment to maintain those mother tongues now a part of Canada’s language economy. Through the promotion of language education, we are extending the limits of our understanding to each other, and we are increasing our capacity to play an important role in shaping the future at home and abroad.
We need to have our children speak and be taught in their mother tongues, and also in French and English in order to become not only successful in their own lives, but understanding citizens of the world.
At home, our concept of multiculturalism would be incomplete without French, English, Aboriginal and Heritage/International languages. Teaching these languages not only reinforces Canada’s multicultural identity, but serves the greater virtues of a tolerant society, of a society that regards peace-building, civic participation and cross-cultural understanding not only as watchwords of a new world order, but as a call to action.
Please contact me athttp:// firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas on how we can make sure our languages are being taught in schools, colleges and other institutions across Canada.