New Brunswick

Bilingualism benefits unilingual New Brunswickers, study finds

Bilingualism in New Brunswick benefits unilingual residents, according to a new report commissioned by the province's commissioner of official languages.

Every bilingual job creates 2 unilingual ones, says Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d'Entremont

Harry Forestell discusses today's report on the economic impact of bilingualism with the province's Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d'Entremont 4:22

Bilingualism in New Brunswick benefits unilingual residents, according to a new report commissioned by the province's commissioner of official languages.

"What surprised me most is when those firms come to New Brunswick because of our bilingual workforce, every bilingual job they create, they create two unilingual jobs," said Official Languages Commissioner Katherine d'Entremont, who released the report on Wednesday.

"That floored me, quite frankly," she said.

​Although some people have criticized official bilingualism as being too expensive for a small province during an economic slump, the report — Two languages: It's good for business — says people need to see what bilingualism has done, and can do, for economic growth.​

For example, New Brunswick has a customer contact centre and back office industry generating $1.4 billion worth of export revenue annually and 15,000 jobs, thanks to its two official languages, according to the report.

D'Entremont, who commissioned the $50,000 study, wouldn't talk about the cost of bilingualism, saying it's her job is to promote it.

"I believe there are those who would say that opposed to costs, it would be investments, and somebody may some day, at some point, may want to calculate that. That's not what interests me," she said.

Industry, government council recommended

"Government is looking for ways to grow and diversify its economy. By publishing this study, we’re making valuable information available to both government and private sector stakeholders working in economic development."

The report, co-authored by economists Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and David Campbell, recommends the creation of an industry and government council, with a mandate of finding concrete measures to increase the economic benefits of bilingualism.

It lists eight key current benefits — from call centres, to national companies that run their administration from New Brunswick, to the business of language itself.

The report says New Brunswick has the highest concentration in 10 Canadian provinces of translators, terminologists and interpreters in the workforce, due to the province's official bilingualism.

Other recommendations include increasing the number of call centres, selling the province's language skills to the European market, attracting more international students with New Brunswick's French and English university options, and enticing more French immigrants.

About 35 per cent of New Brunswickers are bilingual, second only to Quebec.

The report was funded by the Regional Development Corporation under the Total Development Fund.

Campbell was recently appointed the province's chief economist and a leader of the government's jobs board secretariat. Desjardins is an economics professor at the University of Moncton.

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