Asian languages most prevalent in Metro Vancouver after English

Surrey accounts for two-thirds of region's Punjabi speakers

Almost a third of Metro Vancouverites speak a language other than English most often at home, according to newly released census data.

The results from the 2011 count highlight the region’s growing cultural and linguistic diversity as a result of steady immigration from Asia.

The single most prevalent immigrant language in the region is Punjabi – accounting for nearly 147,000 speakers or 6.4 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population of just under 2.3 million.

But Chinese languages make up much more if clumped together.

The census counted 133,000 Cantonese speakers (5.8 per cent), 92,000 Mandarin speakers (four per cent) and another 115,000 non-specifed Chinese speakers (five per cent) in Metro.

Philipine-based Tagalog is Canada’s fastest-growing language and is now spoken by three per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population, while the next top languages here are Korean (two per cent), Farsi, Spanish, German and Hindi (1.1 per cent.)

Just 58 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents speak only English at home, down from 65.2 per cent in 2001.

Increasingly, Metro residents are speaking both English and their mother tongue at home – that mixed use was reported by 24 per cent, up from 17.8 per cent a decade earlier.

Slightly more residents reported being unable to converse in the dominant official language.

Nearly 130,000 residents, or 5.7 per cent of the Metro population, indicated they could not speak English, up from five per cent in 2006.

More than seven per cent said they were officially bilingual, speaking both English and French, while just 0.1 per cent said French was their only official language.

Surrey is home to 94,000 South Asians who list Punjabi as their mother tongue – they make up 20 per cent of the city’s population and two-thirds of the Punjabi speakers in Metro Vancouver.

Half of Metro’s 23,000 Hindi speakers also live in Surrey.

Richmond is home to 23 per cent of Metro’s 330,000 residents who grew up speaking Chinese languages.

In Abbotsford-Mission, 69 per cent list English as their mother tongue and 79 per cent generally speak English only at home.

The census also counted 28,000 in Abbotsford-Mission whose mother tongue is Punjabi – 16.7 per cent of the population – while German was second at 6,500 or 3.9 per cent. Dutch, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese were next most common, at one per cent or less.