Language spoken most often at home of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on April 20, 2009.


Language spoken most often at home refers to the language the person speaks most often at home at the time of data collection. A person can report more than one language as "spoken most often at home" if the languages are spoken equally often.

For a person who lives alone, the language spoken most often at home is the language in which he or she feels most comfortable. For a child who has not yet learned to speak, this is the language spoken most often to the child at home. Where two languages are spoken to the child, the language spoken most often at home is the language spoken most often. If both languages are used equally often, then both languages are included here.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programmes.


In using the Classification of language(s) of person in this context, the category, "none", is not used.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is compatible with the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2", 2008. The UN recommendations suggest three types of language data that can be collected in censuses. One of these is "usual language" which the UN defines as "the language currently spoken, or most often spoken, by the individual in his or her present home". The UN does not provide a standard classification of languages. They recommend that when compiling data on usual language each language that is numerically important in the country should be shown, not merely the dominant language. This is done in this standard through the detailed version of the Classification of languages. Finally, the UN recommends that the criteria for determining language for children not yet able to speak should be clearly indicated. This is done in this standard.

The classification of languages is based on the international standard ISO 639 presented in the Ethnologue, using those categories that are applicable to the Canadian population and adding supplementary detail on Aboriginal languages spoken in Canada.


Additional information


Relation to previous version

  • Language spoken most often at home of person April 20, 2009 to current

    April 20, 2009 - This is a revision to the previous standard 'Language spoken at home'. The previous standard referred only to the one language a person spoke most often at home. This was reflected in the classification which had no categories for multiple responses. Also, there was no standard collapsed classification, users being advised instead to use English and French and the 10 to 15 languages reported with the highest incidence for the given geographic area.

  • Language spoken at home July 15, 1998 to April 19, 2009
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