Lots of languages in Moose Jaw

(Crystal Schick/Times-Herald)

Census data reveals 2,375 residents speak another language at home

While English may be the lingua franca of the Friendly City, behind closed doors, people are keeping their own languages alive.

“There are lots of newcomers to our city, and many of them are coming from places where English is not the first language,” said Stefanie Palmer, executive director of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Centre on Wednesday.

This specific data gathered in the 2016 census was released last week by Statistics Canada. It shows that while the vast majority of the people of Moose Jaw speak English at home, a significant majority does not. A total of 34,440 people were surveyed; 33,800 speak English at home and 740 speak French.

Of the languages other than French or English, Tagalog is the most spoken, with 575 people in the city using it at home. Palmer said this is not surprising, as – like many communities in Canada – there is a strong Filipino presence in town.

“It makes sense that with the strong community already here, more people would be moving here as well,” she said.

After Tagalog comes Arabic with 170 speakers, Cantonese with 145, and Spanish with 115. Along with a smattering of Somali, Gujurati, Punjabi, Urdu, and Vietnamese — among many others — there are 185 Balto-Slavic language speakers, 65 of them Ukrainian.

Palmer said that children coming from other countries especially learn English very quickly, which can make for dynamic family situations.

While the data are from 2016, she also said that she does not expect much to have changed in the intervening time. Whatever the case, Palmer said the linguistic diversity of the city is a good thing.

“It adds a lot of culture to our community,” she said.

Aboriginal languages are also represented in Moose Jaw, with a total of 35 people speaking Cree, Ojibwe, Dakota and Inuktitut.

Jeff Cappo is a Cree language instructor who also speaks Saulteaux, which is a type of Ojibwe.

“It’s very important to be speaking our languages,” he said. “It’s what connects us to our identity.”

Cappo said the majority of Indigenous-language speakers in the area are Cree, but that other groups also have important historical presence here.

“By understanding our language, we understand ourselves as people.”