English and French in Manitoba

Canada has two official languages: English and French.

English is more widely spoken in Manitoba. English is the mother tongue of 74% of Manitobans, French the mother tongue of 3.4%, and 9% of the population speak both English and French.

There are some communities in which French is frequently the language of choice. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages provides information on the French presence in Manitoba and in what areas Francophones live. Across Manitoba, many public services can be accessed in both official languages.

Where you choose to live and work will determine which language you will use most frequently.

Strong communication skills in one of the official languages are essential to the success of newcomers to Manitoba.

Language for the Workplace

You need strong language skills – in speaking, reading, writing and listening – to get the best employment or business opportunities and to be successful at work. Even newcomers with strong skills in the official languages still sometimes find adapting to communication in a new culture is a challenge.

Being aware of the Canadian style of communication – formal and informal, Canadian terminology, colloquial terms – will help you communicate in the way you intend.

In a workplace you may need to:

  • Join in small talk with co-workers.
  • Participate in meetings.
  • Write reports and memos.
  • Understand workplace health and safety guidelines.
  • Persuade, agree and disagree with colleagues, supervisors or customers.
  • Discuss opinions, problems and solutions.
  • Give or receive feedback or criticism.
  • Further your education or training.

Employers also value soft skills. Soft skills are inter-personal workplace skills, the communication you use to get along well with your coworkers. Being comfortable with the Canadian style of communication will help you demonstrate good soft skills.

Language for your Job Search

Before you leave your country and after you arrive in Manitoba, there are services to guide you in your job search and career planning. However, you will need enough language to be independent in your search for employment.
Consider that in order to get a job in Manitoba you may need to…

  • Write a Canadian style resume and cover letter (in English) to highlight your past education and work experience.
  • Be successful in face-to-face job interviews where you must describe your skills.
  • Demonstrate that you have the language proficiency required to do the job.
  • Understand the criteria and processes of a professional regulatory process.
Language for Community Life

With strong language skills in an official language you can settle more quickly and comfortably in your new community. Neighbours, classmates, co-workers, professionals, agencies and other newcomers can all support you. Having strong English (or French) skills will help you connect with all of these people and access the things you need in your community.

You need enough language to:

  • Register your children in school and to support them in their education.
  • Interact with public and private services in person, on the phone or on-line.
  • Communicate in community places like stores, banks, buses, health care facilities, and libraries.
  • Join sports, recreation and leisure activities.
  • Interact with real estate agents, lawyers, or consultants.
  • Speak to health care providers.
  • Socialize and participate in community activities.
  • Meet basic responsibilities, such as insuring your car and paying taxes.
  • Follow local media (TV, radio, newspapers, Internet) to understand current issues in your neighbourhood, city, province and country.
  • Participate in civic processes, exercise your rights and fulfill your responsibilities under the Canadian laws.

Before you move to Manitoba

Think realistically about what level your skills are in the official languages.

Sometimes newcomers overestimate their English or French proficiency or underestimate how long it will take to perfect their language after they arrive.

The CLB-OSA is an online tool available to help you self-assess your English language proficiency. The site also provides information on the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), a frequently used method of describing language proficiency in Canada.

Use as many opportunities available to you to improve your communication skills before you arrive in Manitoba.

  • Start reading about Manitoba and practicing your English with resources on English Online’s Live and Learn
  • Listen to Canadian radio and television online and watch Canadian movies. CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Practice as much as possible by talking to first language speakers or taking language classes.

After you arrive in Manitoba

There are many opportunities to study and practice English and French once you are living in Manitoba. To find out about possible language learning opportunities, go to a settlement agency near you.