Languages of Australia

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Languages of Australia
Official languages N/A
Main languages Australian English (81%)
Indigenous languages Australian Aboriginal languages, Tasmanian languages, Torres Strait Island languages
Minority languages Chinese (2.9%) Italian (1.2%), Arabic (1.1%), Greek (1%), Vietnamese (0.9%), Spanish (0.4%)
Sign languages Auslan
Yolŋu Sign Language and other Aboriginal sign languages
Common keyboard layouts
KB United States-NoAltGr.svg

Australia has no official language, but is largely monolingual with English being the de facto national language. Australian English has a distinctive accent and vocabulary. According to Ethnologue, 81% of people spoke English at home, including L2 speakers. Other languages spoken at home included Chinese 2.9%, Italian 1.2%, Arabic 1.1%, Greek 1%, Vietnamese 0.9% and Spanish 0.4%. [1]

A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. It is believed that there were almost 400 Australian Aboriginal languages at the time of first European contact. Only about 70 of these languages have survived and all but 30 of these are now endangered. An indigenous language remains the main language for about 50,000 (0.25%) people. Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language that approximately 10,000 deaf people use. Chinese is by far the most spoken foreign language, with 715,000 speakers as of 2016, and has even been considered to be put on signs across Australia, to encourage tourists to explore and interact with other people.


Main article: Australian English

Australian English (AuE, AusE, en-AU) is the form of the English language used in Australia. Australian English has a distinctive accent and vocabulary.

Indigenous languages[edit]

People who speak Australian indigenous languages as a percentage of the population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area, as of the 2011 census

Australian Aboriginal languages[edit]

There were almost 400 languages spoken by Indigenous Australians prior to the arrival of Europeans. Most of these are now either extinct or moribund, with only about fifteen languages still being spoken among all age groups of the relevant tribes.[2]

The Aboriginal languages with the most speakers today are Arrernte, Kala Lagaw Ya, Tiwi, Walmajarri, Warlpiri, and the Western Desert language.

Tasmanian languages[edit]

Main article: Tasmanian languages

All the indigenous languages of Tasmania are extinct today, and little reliable information about them was recorded.

Torres Strait languages[edit]

Two languages are spoken on the islands of the Torres Strait, within Australian territory, by the Melanesian inhabitants of the area: Kala Lagaw Ya and Meriam Mir. Meriam Mir is a Papuan language, while Kala Lagaw Ya is an Australian language.

Pidgins and creoles[edit]

Two English-based creoles have arisen in Australia after European contact: Kriol and Torres Strait Creole. Kriol is spoken in the Northern Territory, and Torres Strait Creole in Queensland.

Broome Pearling Lugger Pidgin was a pidgin used as a lingua franca between Malays, Japanese, Vietnamese, Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines on pearling boats.

Foreign Languages[edit]

Sydney areas where significant population of Chinese (red), Vietnamese (yellow), Arabic (dark green), Greek (light blue), Turkish (brown), Serbian (light green) and Korean (pink) speakers lived in 2006
Melbourne areas where Chinese (red), Vietnamese (yellow), Arabic (dark green), Macedonian (orange), Turkish (brown), Italian (light green) and Maltese (pink) were predominantly spoken in 2006

The maps show collection districts in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, colour coded for languages other than English most spoken at home according to the 2006 Census.

In the 2001 census, 2,843,851 Australians reported speaking a language other than English at home, including 50,978 speakers of Indigenous languages. According to Ethnologue, Languages of Australia in 2016 include:

Chinese (all): 715,000
Other or unspecified: 363,062
Mandarin: 336,000
Italian: 300,000
Arabic: 290,000
Cantonese: 264,000
Greek: 252,220
Vietnamese: 233,000
Spanish: 117,000
Hindi: 111,000
Tagalog (Filipino): 89,500
German: 80,000
Korean: 79,000
Punjabi: 70,000+
Macedonian: 63,000
Croatian: 61,000
Turkish: 59,000
Indonesian: 56,000
Serbian: 55,000
French: 53,000
Polish: 50,700
Tamil: 50,200
Sinhalese: 48,200
Russian: 44,100
Japanese: 43,700
Dutch: 37,000
Urdu: 36,800
Thai: 36,700
Samoan: 36,600
Bengali: 35,600
Afrikaans: 35,000
Persian: 34,600
Gujarati: 34,200
Maltese: 34,000
Portuguese: 33,400
Khmer: 29,500
Nepali: 27,000
Malayalam: 25,100
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: 21,500
Hungarian: 20,900
Dari: 20,200

Other languages spoken in Australia, according to Ethnologue, include Adyghe, Basque, Western Cham, Estonian, Fijian Hindustani, Hebrew, Indo-Portuguese, Northern Kurdish (11,000 speakers), Cham (25,000 speakers), Lithuanian (10,000 speakers), Cocos Islands Malay, Mambae, (30,000 speakers), Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Nung, Piemontese, Pukapuka (140 speakers), Romanian, Traveller Scottish, Senaya, Slovene, Sylheti, Tai Dam, Tongan, Turoyo (2,000 speakers), Unserdeutsch, Uyghur, Northern Uzbek, Welsh and Eastern Yiddish. There is also the developing Italo-Australian Dialect that is not officially recognised by the Australian government but has been noted by linguists throughout Italy and Australia; the number of speakers is unknown.

Recent census history[edit]

According to the 2011 census, 76.8% of people spoke only English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin 1.6%, Italian 1.4%, Arabic 1.3%, Cantonese 1.2% and Greek 1.2%.[3]

According to the 2006 census, close to 79 per cent of Australia’s population spoke only English at home. The three most common languages other than English were Italian (accounting for 1.6 per cent of the population) and Cantonese (1.2 per cent).[4]

According to the 2001 census, English was the only language spoken in the home for around 80% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home were Chinese (2.1%), Italian (1.9%), and Vietnamese (1.7%).

See also[edit]

Diminutives in Australian English


External links[edit]