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English and French are the two official languages of Canada. You’ll notice both on highway signs, maps, tourist brochures and all types of packaging. In the west of Canada, French isn’t as prevalent. Conversely, English can be hard to find in Québec. Indeed, road signs and visitor information there will often be in French only. Outside Montréal and Québec City, the use of some French, or your own version of sign language, will be necessary at least some of the time.

Many immigrants use their mother tongues, as do some groups of First Nations and Inuit. In some aboriginal communities, though, it’s now only older members who retain their original indigenous language. Few non-indigenous Canadians speak any First Nations or Inuit language, but some words such as ‘igloo, ’ ‘parka, ’ ‘muskeg’ and ‘kayak’ are commonly used.

The Inuit languages are interesting for their specialization and use of many words for what appears to be the same thing. The best known example is the 20 or so words for ‘snow, ’ each relating different consistencies and textures.

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