Despite its reputation as an immigration-fuelled, multi-tongued mosaic community, English is still the majority language in the metropolitan region of Toronto, new census data shows.

English was identified as the mother tongue for 55.4 per cent of people in the census metropolitan area of Toronto, Statistics Canada said Wednesday as it released new information on languages from the 2011 census. French, Canada's other official language, was cited by 1.3 per cent.

But a total of 43.3 per cent of the population of metro Toronto has a mother tongue other than one of Canada's official languages. That's a slight decrease from 43.6 per cent in the 2006 census.

The census metropolitan area of Toronto includes the Greater Toronto Area, along with Bradford West Gwillimbury, Mono, New Tecumseth and Orangeville.

According to the 2011 census, the top five non-official languages spoken in the metropolitan area of Toronto: one of the Chinese languages (8.1 per cent); Italian (3.1 per cent); Punjabi (2.9 per cent); Tagalog (Filipino) (2.3 per cent); and Spanish (2.2 per cent). Five years ago, the census reported the top five other languages spoken were one of the Chinese languages, Italian, Punjabi, Spanish and Portuguese.

Statistics Canada defines "mother tongue" as the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood at the time the census was taken in May 2011. The census also documented languages spoken at home and knowledge of CanadaIs official languages.

Cancellation of long form census affected response

Statistics Canada noted a change in the response patterns for some of the mother tongue data for the 2011 census. Previously, language questions were asked only on what was known as the long form census, which went to just 20 per cent of the population. Last year, the government did away with the long form questionnaire and put the language question on the census that went to all Canadians.

As a result of the change in methodology, Statistics Canada reported that Canadians appear to have been less inclined than in previous years to report languages other than French or English as their only mother tongue — and also more inclined to list multiple languages as their mother tongue and the language used most often at home.

Across Canada, a total of 57.8 per cent of the population spoke English, 21.7 per cent spoke French and 20.6 per cent spoke other languages. The proportion of Canadians speaking one of the countryIs official languages has decreased over the years as the immigrant population has increased.

The top "non-official" languages spoken in Canada: one of the Chinese languages (3.3 per cent); Punjabi (1.3 per cent); Spanish (1.3 per cent); Italian (1.3 per cent) and German (1.3 per cent).

In total, the 2011 census reported 191 different languages as mother tongues among the country's population. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that counts language in its census.

In the census metropolitan area of Toronto, a total of 163 languages were identified.

Statistics Canada uses the term census metropolitan area to describe any area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people. Census metropolitan areas are often different from municipal boundaries and take into account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada's largest cities.

With files from CBC News