Brief definitions of basic terms (as used in the Canadian context)

Allophone - a person whose first language is neither of Canada's official languages of English and French.

Alternative French Language Program - see French Immersion

Anglophone - an English-speaking person, regardless of ethnic origin or first language learned. Not only individuals of British origin.


  • Official bilingualism - used to describe Canada's policy of providing federal government services in English and French, the languages used officially by the federal government.
  • Institutional bilingualism - the obligation of the Government of Canada institutions to use both English and French and provide services to the public in both languages. This is an obligation of the institution, not of each employee. Many employees may be unilingual.
  • Bilingual country - countries where two principal languages are spoken widely. Examples include Canada, Finland and Belgium. Does not refer to the degree of individual bilingualism of the population.

Franco-Albertan – a French-speaking person who resides in Alberta.

Francophile - an individual who admires and supports French language and culture. Often used to refer to an individual who has learned French as a second language.

Francophone - a French-speaking person, regardless of ethnic origin or first language learned. Not only individuals of French origin.

Francophone School - a school where the curriculum, aside from English language arts, is taught in French. French as a first language instruction begins as early as kindergarten and is available up to grade 12. Under the law, only parents who qualify under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) have a right to have their child educated in Francophone schools. Francophone schools are governed by separate Francophone Regional Authorities.

French Immersion - also known as an Alternative French Language Program, this is a school program where French is used as the language of instruction for a significant part of each school day (usually from 75% to 100% in the early grades and from 25% to 80% in secondary school) and several or all subjects are taught in French, except English language arts. French immersion usually begins in kindergarten or grade 1 (early immersion) or in grade 7 (late immersion).

French as a Second Language(FSL) - students study French as a subject, usually for 30 to 40 minutes a day. For the rest of their school day, English is used as the language of instruction. FSL can begin anywhere from kindergarten or grade 1 to grade 10, depending on the school board or school.

Language rights - in the words of the Supreme Court, "a well-known species of human rights," relating to the use of language, especially in dealings with government. In Canada, generally those rights established by sections 16 to 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the federal Official Languages Act, and numerous provincial and territorial statutes.

Linguistic duality - the presence within Canadian society of two widely spoken languages, English and French, and two major linguistic groups.

Minority-language communities - French-speaking communities outside Quebec and English-speaking communities in Quebec.

Mother tongue - the first language learned at home during childhood and still understood.

Significant demand - services are provided in French in Quebec and in English in the rest of the country, and in both official languages where members of the official language minority are sufficiently numerous.

Many of these definitions are from the Government of Canada's publication Official Languages: Myths and Realities (1998), and from Alberta Education.

Last reviewed/revised: June 6, 2016
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