Do People in Ottawa Speak English?

Experience Adventure Like Never Before: Book Your Tour Today!

Do People in Ottawa Speak English?

As the capital city of Canada, Ottawa attracts a lot of attention from both tourists and immigrants. People from all over the world come to live, work, and study in Ottawa, making it a multicultural and diverse city in terms of ethnicity, culture, and languages spoken. One of the most common questions that people have when considering a trip or a move to Ottawa is whether locals speak English. In this blog post, we’ll explore this topic in-depth and provide evidence-backed information to help you answer this question yourself.

The Official Languages of Canada

Before we dive into the language situation of Ottawa, let’s first clarify what the official languages of Canada are. Canada is a bilingual country with two official languages: English and French. The Canadian Constitution recognizes both languages as having equal status and mandates that all federal institutions provide services in both languages. That means that any documentation, website, or communication from a federal institution must be available in both English and French.

English and French in Ottawa

As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is home to many of the country’s federal institutions, including the Parliament, government agencies, and embassies. That means that a significant portion of the population in Ottawa works for the federal government or its affiliates. As a result, both English and French are widely spoken and used in the city’s public and private sectors. According to the 2016 Census, 60.4% of Ottawa residents reported English as their mother tongue, while 14.2% reported French. However, this only represents a portion of the languages spoken in the city. In addition to English and French, Ottawa is home to speakers of many other languages, including Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, and more.

English Language Education in Ottawa

As English is one of the official languages of Canada, it’s not surprising that English education is readily available in Ottawa. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) offer full-time English language instruction to students from kindergarten to grade 12. There are also several private schools that offer English language instruction at different levels. For adults, there are many English language schools, colleges, and universities in Ottawa that offer intensive English language programs. Additionally, there are several community organizations that offer free or low-cost English language classes for newcomers and refugees.

Speaking and Understanding English in Ottawa

With English being widely spoken in both the public and private sectors, visitors to Ottawa should have no trouble communicating in English. Most signage, menus, and other public-facing materials are available in both English and French, so it’s easy to navigate and understand the city. Of course, there will always be individuals who are more comfortable speaking French, especially in certain neighborhoods or parts of town. It’s always helpful to know basic French phrases or to carry a translation app to assist in communication.


In conclusion, people in Ottawa do speak English, and it’s one of the city’s two official languages. While French is also widely spoken, especially in federal institutions, English is the main language of communication in the city. With extensive English language education, international students and newcomers have plenty of opportunities to develop their English skills through various programs.Ottawa’s language diversity and bilingualism make it a unique and fascinating city to explore. We hope this blog post has provided you with the information you need to feel confident communicating in English during your trip or move to Ottawa.

Frequently Asked Questions About English Language in Ottawa

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and home to over 1 million people. It is a diverse city with residents belonging to different cultural backgrounds. One of the questions that people often ask about Ottawa is whether or not the people there speak English. In this blog post, we aim to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the English language in Ottawa.

1. Do people in Ottawa speak English?

Yes, English is a widely spoken language in Ottawa. It is the official language of Canada and is spoken by the majority of the population, particularly in the region of Eastern Ontario. However, it is important to note that Canada has two official languages – English and French.

2. Are there any other languages spoken in Ottawa?

Yes, Ottawa is a multicultural city, and residents speak numerous languages, including French, Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish, to name a few. However, English and French are the two official languages of Canada, and as such, most official business in Ottawa is conducted in these languages.

3. Is it necessary to know French to live or work in Ottawa?

No, it is not necessary to know French to live or work in Ottawa. While French is an important language in Ottawa, particularly for official business conducted at the federal level, knowledge of the language is not a prerequisite for day-to-day activities. Nonetheless, knowing French can increase one’s employability in some fields and provide an advantage in certain industries where bilingualism is preferred but not mandatory.

4. Where can I find English language courses in Ottawa?

Several institutions offer English language courses in Ottawa. Some of these institutions include the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and Algonquin College, to name a few. Additionally, many language schools and private tutoring services are available throughout the city.

5. Are there any cultural differences to be aware of when speaking English in Ottawa?

While English is widely spoken in Ottawa, it is important to be mindful of cultural differences when speaking the language. For instance, some words and phrases that may be considered acceptable in one country or region may not be appropriate in another. It is therefore essential to gain cultural competence and to be sensitive to the cultural differences and nuances when communicating with people from various backgrounds.

6. How can I improve my English language skills in Ottawa?

There are numerous ways to improve English language skills in Ottawa, including taking language classes, enrolling in language exchange programs, attending events, and practicing with native English speakers. Additionally, reading and watching English language media, such as books, movies, and television shows, can also help improve language skills.

7. Is it easy to find a job in Ottawa if I do not speak French?

While fluency in French can make one more employable in certain industries, it is not necessary for all jobs in Ottawa. Many jobs in Ottawa do not require bilingualism, and fluency in English alone is sufficient. However, some job postings may list French as a requirement, and being bilingual can provide a competitive edge in the job market.


In conclusion, while Ottawa is a bilingual city, with two official languages – English and French – English is widely spoken, and knowledge of French is not mandatory for daily life. However, being bilingual can be an asset in some industries and provide a competitive edge in the job market. Additionally, it is essential to be culturally sensitive when communicating with people from diverse backgrounds and to gain cultural competence to be able to interact effectively with different communities.


Do People in Ottawa Speak English?

Experience Adventure Like Never Before: Book Your Tour Today!