What Language is Spoken in Quebec?

A bilingual road sign in Quebec City, Quebec.
A bilingual road sign in Quebec City, Quebec.

Quebec is one of the largest provinces in Canada and covers a region of approximately 595,391 square miles and according to data from Statistics Canada, was home to 8,439,925 people in 2018. Although Quebec City is the province's capital, the city of Montreal has the distinction of being the largest city in Quebec Province. French is the province's official language, and according to the 2011 census, almost 95% of the population report that they are able to speak French. 

Largest Languages in Quebec


French is the native language of 78% of the population, amounting to about 6,102,210 people. Most of the native French speakers in Quebec are descendants of the settlers of New France. Immigration from French-speaking countries has also increased the number of Francophones in the province. Quebec language laws regulate the French language in the province and promote it as the exclusive language of all Quebecers. Children of immigrants attend French school, which has helped swell the number of children under 15 years old who speak French at home to 88% compared to 80% for the general population. 


Another language with a significant number of speakers in Quebec is English as the 2011 census indicates that 599,230 individuals speak English as their native tongue. The presence of English native speakers in Quebec dates back to the 18th century when the British took control of the region. The British were responsible for naming the area the Province of Quebec after they defeated the French. During the British rule, the local government passed the Quebec Act in recognition of the residents' French culture and language. Although English has significantly fewer speakers compared to French, many residents of the province are bilingual. Quebec has a more significant percentage of bilingual residents than any of the other Canadian provinces. Despite not having official status in the province, English is regularly used in formal situations such as in parliament. Parliamentary records in Quebec have to be kept in both languages.


The 2011 census indicates that Arabic has the third highest number of native speakers in Quebec at 164,390 people. Quebec has a more significant Arab population than any other Canadian province which might contribute to a large number of native Arabic speakers. The Arabs in Quebec are mainly immigrants from other nations.

History of French in Quebec

The King of France developed an interest in Quebec during the early 1520's after Giovanni da Verrazzano convinced him to send men to explore the region with hopes of finding a viable route to China. Several French explorers such as Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain arrived in the area and searched for areas they could settle. In the initial years of the region's territory, French settlers faced many difficulties that made starting settlements nearly impossible. Despite the challenges, they managed to make agreements with several indigenous tribes that were vital in securing their future in the region. Samuel de Champlain played a critical role in the area as he established Quebec City. The English captured Quebec, but through clever political maneuvering by Samuel de Champlain and King Louis XIII, the British returned the lands to the French. The French christened the region New France and worked hard to ensure it had a significant French population.


More in World Facts