When Melanie Zeissler speaks to her three-year-old girl Joseleen and her one-year-old boy Jonathan, German is the language of choice.
Joseleen has been immersed in her mother's mother tongue for so long that the little girl can translate what mom says to her friends.
"She is pretty amazing; she can switch back and forth now," Zeissler says. "She has a little vocabulary book and so, for her, almost everything has two words for it. A tree is a tree but it's also baum."
Zeissler's German heritage is far from unique in Chilliwack, but her linguistic practices are less common, according to data from the 2011 Census released last week.
In the Chilliwack census agglomeration (CA)-an area that includes Chilliwack, the District of Kent, Harrison Hot Springs and nearby Fraser Valley Regional District areas-out of a population of 90,735, 86.7 per cent report English as a mother tongue.
Just 1,200 people, or 1.3 per cent, report Canada's other official language, French, as their language.
But nearly 10,000 people, or 11 per cent, reported a non-official language.
In comparison, the provincial percentages were 70.3 per cent English only, 1.3 per cent for French and 26.5 per cent for non-official languages.
As to which non-official tongues are spoken in
Chilliwack, while many consider Dutch to be a major influence, there are considerably more Germans.
There were 2,965 people who claimed German as a mother tongue and 1,910 Dutch. The next highest numbers include: 555 Spanish, 525 Punjabi and 405 Korean.
But the Census numbers differentiate between mother tongue and language most often spoken at home.
While 86.7 per cent report English as mother tongue, 95.4 per cent report English as the language most commonly spoken.
While 84 per cent of Koreans are speaking the language at home, that's 65 per cent for Punjabi speakers and 48 per cent for Spanish. But 12 per cent of those who reported Dutch as their birth language speak it pre-dominantly in the home.
As for all those Germans, just 15 per cent report it as the language spoken in the home. That doesn't surprise Zeissler who says most younger German people she has met don't speak the language any more.
"I always knew about the older generation. But with younger people, they say 'my parents are from Germany, I'm German,' but they don't speak German."
Zeissler continues to speak her native tongue at home so that her kids are raised bilingual.
"I would be afraid if I stopped," she said.
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