A guest post by Canadian marketing legend Howard Lichtman, co-founder of Ethnicity Matters, an ethnic ad agency and longtime client of ours

Canada has two official languages – English and French. We pride ourselves on our bilingualism. All good, but our country today is vastly different from the Canada where our forefathers forged the constitution we live by.

The numbers speak for themselves. One in five Canadians is foreign-born. That’s equivalent to the population of the province of Quebec. Most corporations translate their mainstream English ads into French. The question is, in today’s changing multicultural mosaic, is that enough?

Here are some facts to help you answer this question:

22% of Canadians have a mother tongue that is not English or French.

That number increases when you focus on a particular city: it’s 32% in Toronto and 31% in Vancouver.

So you think, okay, they have a different mother tongue, but they do speak English or French, right? So we’re still reaching them, right? You’re not reaching everyone. 19% of Chinese natives do not speak English or French. 15% of Punjabi natives don’t speak English or French.

Okay, but there are other ethnic groups who do speak English or French, right? Correct. But even Filipinos who are completely bilingual in English and Tagalog indicate that they prefer to speak Tagalog (24%). And when it comes to native Arabic speakers, 43% prefer to speak Arabic.

And if you’re into macro trends, you should note that the number of foreign-born Canadians – one in five in the last census – is only expected to grow. There are more than 340,000 newcomers arriving on our Canadians shores yearly.

That doesn’t take into account the 670,000 international students.

When it comes to recent immigrants, 69% speak a language other than English or French at home.

In order to market effectively to ethnic consumers, language is not enough. You need to have a message and creative that are steeped in cultural insight and relevance. But to reach Canada’s immigrant communities, speaking to them in their language of choice is a necessary first step.

To learn how Power of Babel can help you bring your message to your customers in their preferred language, please get in touch.