Top 10 languages for translation of immigration information documents in Ontario

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Question In addition to French and Spanish, what 10 languages should immigration information documents be translated into in order to ensure they are relevant to immigrants and newcomer communities in Ontario?

The issue and why it’s important

Two community agencies in Ontario planned to translate key immigration information documents that were already available in English into 10 languages other than French and Spanish (translation was already planned for these).

To ensure the immigration information documents are relevant to immigrants and newcomer communities in Ontario and the organizations that serve them, we have been asked to identify the ten additional languages most frequently spoken by immigrant communities in Ontario.

What we found

  • To generate our list of languages to translate, we first identified a list of potential languages from those that were recently translated by the Ontario AIDS Bureau for a campaign ( [1]. We then compared the languages identified by immigrants and newcomers in OCHART (Ontario Community-based HIV and AIDS Reporting Tool) data and two types of Ontario census data and listed the 10 languages that were cited most often in these three sources [2 ,3].
  • OCHART data consisted of languages spoken by clients served in ASOs in Ontario
  • Ontario census data (1) consisted of all immigrants to Ontario between 2001-2006. The top languages spoken were separated into two different lists based on the data provided: 1) the most frequent languages spoken among all immigrants who did not also speak English or French and 2) the percentage of people who speak a language but not English or French (e.g., the percentage of people who speak Vietnamese but not English or French) [3].
  • We found that there were 10 languages that were cited at least once in the three lists from OCHART and the census data. We also found that 4 of languages used by the Ontario AIDS Bureau were not cited in the lists from OCHART or the census data. Given that the AIDS Bureau languages were developed based on anecdotal evidence, we recommend that the data from OCHART and the census data be used to identify the top 10 languages for this project.
  • In the ‘Key Messages’ section below, we outline the recommended languages for transition and in Table 1 we outline a summary of the process that we used to arrive at this recommendation.

1 Does not include Canadian internal migration

 Key take-home messages

Languages recommended for translation (12):

  1. French
  2. Spanish
  3. Chinese – traditional
  4. Tamil
  5. Urdu
  6. Vietnamese
  7. Gujarati
  8. Korean
  9. Portuguese
  10. Punjabi
  11. Bengali
  12. Hindi

Limitation of data collected

  • languages were chosen based on anecdotal evidence from the partner AIDS service organizations related to communities served and languages seen in service delivery and in the community
  • Census data on immigration does not include information on people who do not understand English or French and speak two other languages.


Reference list

  1. []
  2. AIDS Bureau – Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Public Health Agency of Canada: OCHART: A View from the Front Lines. Ontario; 2008.
  3. 2006 Census Data Products []

Suggested citation

Rapid Response Service. Languages in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Ontario HIV Treatment Network; March, 2009.



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