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Canada’s language education sector dips in 2019, Languages Canada urges government action

Ottawa, Canada – Languages Canada and BONARD revealed the results of the latest Annual Report on Language Education in Canada, which details the country’s performance in the year before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following last year’s successful transition to a national survey, Languages Canada again commissioned BONARD to administer data collection and reporting. Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada, noted that this partnership delivers a unique combination of local expertise and experience in international education research.

Peralta praised the solid participation rate achieved even though data collection took place during the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 239 English and French language programs completed the survey conducted by BONARD between January and April 2020. Samuel Vetrak, BONARD CEO, added that bringing together member and non-member language providers in the country established a platform for true market representation, enabling the association to elevate and further professionalize the sector in Canada.

The research demonstrates that language studies continue to play a vital role within the Canadian education sector. Cumulatively, language programs enrolled 155,383 students, of which 145,684 were internationals. The research established that 86% of international language learners studied at Languages Canada member programs in 2019.

A year-on-year comparison pointed to 3.9% fewer students than in the previous year. On average, students spent 10 weeks on their courses, generating a minimum of 1,522,785 student weeks. This equalled to a fall in student week volume of 8% compared to 2018. Student intake dipped for both the private and public sector. Although private-sector institutions hosted just 1.8% fewer language students than in 2019, student week volume dropped by 7.2% due to shorter stays. Public-sector organizations recorded a dip of 10% in the number of learners.

Ontario and British Columbia remained the most popular provinces in Canada, accounting for 78% of all students in 2019. That said, both faced a decline in student numbers (1% and 7% respectively). Quebec and Saskatchewan were the only two provinces which recorded an uptick in enrolments.

With 24,890 language students, Brazil constituted the top source market in 2019. It was followed by Japan (20,590), China (17,166), Mexico (17,065), and South Korea (14,092). Of these, only Mexico posted growth (a 17% year-on-year increase), making it the fastest-growing source country in the top 10 ranking.

Regarding Canada’s global presence, Peralta elaborated that “thanks to the unique global data, we are able to see that Canada is a very popular destination for a number of Asian and Latin American language students. We have an especially strong foundation in Mexico, where 55% of all outbound student weeks were spent here in Canada. Last year, we also saw a very good share in outbound student weeks from Vietnam (42%), India (32%), South Korea (31%), and Japan (26%). At the same time, we identified markets where Canada appears to be under-represented. This will help us navigate through the post-Covid-19 period.”

Meanwhile, the French language segment welcomed 11,088 students, representing a significant proportion of the market. Domestic students accounted for 20% of all students. Internationally, the top source markets were Mexico (1,441), China (1,115), the USA (1,068), and Brazil (964). French programs were less reliant on agency bookings than the language sector in Canada as a whole (45% of French program bookings were through agencies vs. 59% across the language sector as a whole).

According to the responding language programs, visa denials and visa processing times remain the top two concerns for almost 63% and 49% of respondents, respectively. “Not only do we take this aggregate data as a benchmark for the future once we are en route to recovery, we also use insight from this annual research as one of the guiding principles which inform our actions as the voice of Canada’s language education sector. For instance, this has been demonstrated in our strong visa policy lobbying efforts,” Peralta concluded.


For any queries, please contact:
Felicity Borgal, 
Stefan Kolibar,, +43 650 612 4527

About Languages Canada

Languages Canada is Canada’s premier language organization representing its two official languages: English and French. Membership is limited to programs from the public and private sectors that meet the rigorous standards of the association. Languages Canada is recognized by the Canadian government and internationally. More information at:


BONARD is an independent market intelligence and strategic development firm specialising in international education. The company provides research and advisory services to governments, associations as well as individual providers. BONARD is a UNWTO Affiliate member, with senior research officials also being members of ESOMAR World Research. More information at: