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Languages of Australia

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Title: Languages of Australia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Languages of Oceania, Architecture of Australia, Australian art, Australian cuisine, Australian literature
Collection: Australian Culture, Languages of Australia
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Languages of Australia

Languages of }
Official languages None
Main languages Australian English (80%)
Indigenous languages Australian Aboriginal languages, Tasmanian languages, Torres Strait Island languages
Minority languages Mandarin Chinese (1.6%), Italian (1.4%), Arabic (1.3%), Greek (1.3%), Cantonese (1.2%)
Sign languages Auslan
Yolŋu Sign Language and other Aboriginal sign languages
Common keyboard layouts

Australia has no official language, it is largely monolingual with English being the de facto national language. Australian English has a distinctive accent and vocabulary. 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%.[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 of about 6,500 deaf people.


  • English 1
  • Indigenous languages 2
    • Australian Aboriginal Languages 2.1
    • Tasmanian languages 2.2
    • Torres Strait languages 2.3
  • Pidgins and creoles 3
  • Other minority languages 4
  • Recent census history 5
  • See Also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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

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

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

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

Torres Strait languages

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

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.

Other minority languages

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 live
Melbourne areas where Chinese (red), Vietnamese (yellow), Arabic (dark green), Macedonian (orange), Turkish (brown), Italian (light green) and Maltese (pink) are predominantly spoken

Collection districts in Sydney, Australia, denoting languages other than English most spoken at home according to the 2006 Census, including Chinese (red), Arabic (dark green), Turkish (brown), Italian (light green), Vietnamese (yellow), Greek (light blue) and Maltese (pink)

In the 2001 census, 2,843,851 Australians reported speaking a language other than English at home, including 50,978 speakers of Indigenous languages. Other languages were:
Chinese (all): 371,357
Other or unspecified: 363,062
Italian: 316,890
Vietnamese: 278,236
Greek: 252,220
Cantonese: 244,553
Arabic: 243,662
Mandarin: 220,601
Macedonian: 95,365 (2006)
French: 93,593
Spanish: 78,878
German: 76,443
Serbian: 67,836
Croatian: 63,611
Polish: 53,387
Turkish: 50,693
Hindi: 47,817
Maltese: 41,393
Dutch: 40,188
Tagalog (Filipino): 39,643
Korean: 39,529
Indonesian: 38,724
Other Chinese: 36,764
Russian: 36,501
Japanese: 35,111
Persian: 25,238
Hungarian: 24,485
Tamil: 24,074
Portuguese: 23,688
Samoan: 22,711
Sinhalese: 20,600
Unspecified South Slavic: 14,606

Other languages spoken in Australia, according to Ethnologue, include Adyghe, Afrikaans (12,655 speakers), Basque, Western Cham, Estonian, Fijian Hindustani, Hebrew, Indo-Portuguese, Northern Kurdish (11,000 speakers), Cham, Latvian (25,000 speakers), Lithuanian (10,000 speakers), Cocos Islands Malay, Mambae, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (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 isn't 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

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), Greek (1.3 per cent) 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%), Vietnamese (1.7%) and Greek (1.4%).

See Also

Diminutives in Australian English


  1. ^
  2. ^ McConvell, P. & N.Thieberger. 2001. State of Indigenous Language Report.
  3. ^
  4. ^!OpenDocument

External links

  • Ethnologue report for Australia
  • Census Data (Australian government)
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