Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
First official language spoken

Release date: November 17, 2021Updated on: August 17, 2022


First official language spoken refers to the first official language (English or French) spoken by the person.

Statistical unit(s)


Reported in

2021, 2016 and 2011 (100% data); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991 and 1986 (20% sample).

Reported for

Total population

Question number(s)

Derived variable: Questions 8, 9b) and 10


The standard classification for first official language spoken is "English," "French," "English and French," and "Neither English nor French."


First official language spoken is derived from the questions on knowledge of official languages (Question 8), language spoken most often at home (Question 9b)) and mother tongue (Question 10). Refer to Figure 1 Derivation of the First official language spoken for detailed information on the derivation method.

Since 1991, this variable has represented the method specified within the framework of the Official Languages Act for measuring the demand for official languages when providing public communications and services. In 2019, these regulations were amended and the measurement was modified.

The first official language spoken variable will continue to be derived the same as it was in 2016 and prior census years. For the 2021 Census onward, an additional variable, Potential demand for federal communications and services in the minority official language is derived based on the specification of the amended regulations.

For more information on language variables, including information on their classifications, the questions from which they are derived, data quality and their comparability with other sources of data, please refer to the Languages Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2021.

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