Many of the first settlers to the province were of French Canadian origin. French was the first European language spoken in Alberta. These origins are still visible today and according to the 2006 Census data, 390,895 or 12% Albertans, are of French descent.
Alberta's Francophone Communities
French is the mother tongue of one Canadian in five, and approximately 81 085 Albertans. According to the 2011 Census information, Alberta’s Francophone population is growing faster than any French-speaking population in Canada. The Francophone population grew by approximately 18% between 2006 and 2011.
In geographical areas where the Francophone population is concentrated (St. Paul, Bonnyville, Peace River, Calgary and Edmonton) people continue to speak French at home and are able to obtain a greater number of services in French. Three municipalities are officially bilingual, Beaumont (15 km southeast of Edmonton), Legal (35 km north of Edmonton) and Falher (420 km northwest of Edmonton).
Continued Popularity of French Programs
The overall number of Alberta students enrolled in French language programs is rising steadily and currently number 181,852 or 30% of the K-12 student population.
The availability of alternative French language programs, including French immersion programs is increasing, with 47 communities offering programs across the province and 36,753 students participating in French immersion programs in 2011-12. This represents 5.9 % of the Alberta student population. Of particular note, Alberta has the highest rate of enrolment in Canada for the International Diploma recognizing French-language proficiency, the Diplome d’études de langue française or DELF which is administered by the French Ministry of Education. 1463 students from Alberta and Yellowknife took assessments in 2011-2012. The success rate was 96%.
Growth is also occurring within Alberta’s 35 Francophone schools, where the curriculum, aside from English Language Arts, is entirely in French. In the 2011-12 school year, Francophone schools recorded 4% growth with 5,943 students enrolled.
French as a second language (FSL) continues to attract a significant number of students annually. In 2011-12, enrolment in FSL programs sat at 145,099 enrolments.
In addition, many Francophone and Immersion students choose to continue their studies in French at the post-secondary level. On top of French language courses offered at many Alberta post-secondary institutions, the University of Alberta offers a number of undergraduate and graduate programs completely in French through its Campus Saint-Jean. In 2012, the Collegiate level courses in French will be offered for the first time through the Centre collegial de l’Alberta.
Increasing Bilingual Population
French is the most common second language for many Canadians, in large part because it is so widely used and accessible throughout the country. This is true also in Alberta, where the number of bilingual residents is rising steadily. According to the 2011 Census, the Province ranked fifth in terms of bilingual population: 238,770 Albertans were bilingual compared to 178,505 in 1996, an increase of 34%.
Changing economic and social relations are creating a demand for enhanced skills in an ever-increasing number of entrepreneurial, professional and technical fields. As more and more businesses are committed to providing services in more than one language, and as an increasing number of Albertans are bilingual, Alberta is more than ever positioned to meet this challenge.
To download a bilingual information sheet on Statistics, click here.