A new CBC-Nielsen poll reveals Canadians don’t seem to be having a good time with their language skills.
The poll of 1,817 Canadians was conducted online and telephone from October 24-26.
It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.
More than a third of Canadians don’ t know how to use a word correctly, while another 27 per cent say they can’t.
The pollster says that, if this survey is correct, a majority of Canadians have no idea how to read a letter or the difference between “no” and “yes.”
“It’s not surprising,” said Dr. James Lappin, a professor at the University of Calgary who studies bilingualism.
“It’s a matter of how we think about our languages.”
Linguistic studies have shown that language can have a significant impact on our lives, says Lappis, as well as our social and political identities.
“We’re constantly reminded of how much we need to communicate to each other,” he said.
“In my own case, it’s the fact that the world of language is my home and I have a home that I love.
I love to travel.
I want to have my own space to be creative.
And I have friends who are bilingual.”
A few years ago, Dr. Lappins son was studying abroad.
When he returned, he was surprised by the lack of conversation.
“I started to think about why my parents had the difficulties of speaking to each of their four children in different languages,” he told CBC News.
“They were not speaking English.
They were speaking Japanese.
It was quite a challenge.
It’s not something that I’d expect my children to have.”
In fact, the research suggests that parents are not doing enough to improve their children’ communication skills.
A survey of 2,079 Canadian adults found that nearly half (45 per cent) said that the language barrier is a barrier to their children being successful in school.
Dr. Littin, who has written extensively about language barriers, said that, when it comes to language learning, parents need to step up.
“If we don’t do anything to address the barriers, the problem will grow, it will get worse,” he explained.
“You have to be really active in the language areas and make sure that your children understand them.
I mean, it seems like a small thing, but if you don’t speak English well, it is very serious.”
For Dr. Kallin, this is a bigger problem than the language barriers.
“I think it’s really important for the country and for Canadian society that we recognize that there are cultural barriers,” she said.
Kallin is one of the authors of a book called The Linguistic Revolution, published by Simon & Schuster Canada.
In it, she describes a recent visit to Toronto where she and other academics spent six weeks exploring Toronto’s multicultural landscape.
Kailash Chopra, director of the Centre for Research on Bilingualism at Simon &s; Schusters Canada, says that while Canada has become more multicultural, the number of speakers of both English and French is still low.
“The percentage of people who can speak English is still below 60 per cent,” he says.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of kids who are still being taught English as their second language.”
But Chopra believes that the government has a role to play.
“There’s been a massive transformation in the way that we’re learning and using our language,” he points out.
“If you want to create a thriving bilingual culture, it means you have to make sure we have a vibrant language-learning environment.
We’re seeing a lot more children in the schools who are learning English as a second language.
We need to make it as easy as possible for them to learn English.”