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Languages of New Zealand

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Title: Languages of New Zealand  
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Subject: Music of New Zealand, History of New Zealand, Media of New Zealand, New Zealand literature, Languages of Oceania
Collection: Languages of New Zealand
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Languages of New Zealand

Languages of New Zealand
Official languages Māori, New Zealand Sign Language
Main languages New Zealand English
Sign languages New Zealand Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts

There are several languages of New Zealand. English (New Zealand English) is the dominant language spoken by most New Zealanders[1] and is one of three official languages[2] of New Zealand. The country's de jure official languages are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Other languages are also used by ethnic communities.


  • Official languages 1
  • Native languages 2
  • Immigrant languages 3
  • Statistics 4
  • References 5

Official languages

New Zealand adopted sign language (New Zealand Sign Language or NZSL) as an official language on 10 April 2006.[3] It is now legal for use and access in legal proceedings including in court and access to government services.

There are around 70,000 native speakers of Maori out of a population of over 500,000 Māori people,[4] with 161,000 of the country's 4 million residents claiming conversational ability in Māori.[5]

Native languages

The pre-European inhabitants of the main islands of New Zealand all spoke Māori. A number of outlying islands and territories of New Zealand have their own native languages:

Immigrant languages

New Zealand has more speakers of several Polynesian languages resident in New Zealand than are resident in the country that language is native to (for example Niuean). It also has immigrants from other European and Asian countries who have brought their languages with them. According to Ethnologue, the largest groups are Samoan (50,000), "Rarotongan" (Cook Islands Maori, 25,000), Hindi and other Indian languages (26,200), Yue Chinese (20,000) and Arabic (4000).[4]


At the 2013 New Zealand Census, the following languages were spoken by more than 0.1% of the population.[6]

Language Number Percentage Change from 2006
English (New Zealand English) 3,819,969 96.14 +0.24
Māori 148,395 3.73 −0.37
Samoan 86,403 2.17 −0.06
Hindi 66,309 1.67 +0.51
Mandarin Chinese 52,263 1.32 +0.24
French 49,125 1.24 −0.16
Yue Chinese 44,625 1.12 −0.03
Chinese (not further defined) 42,753 1.08 +0.09
German 36,642 0.92 −0.06
Tongan 31,839 0.80 +0.03
Tagalog 29,016 0.73 +0.40
Afrikaans 27,387 0.69 +0.14
Spanish 26,979 0.68 +0.12
Korean 26,373 0.66 −0.04
Dutch 24,006 0.60 −0.10
New Zealand Sign Language 20,235 0.51 −0.12
Japanese 20,148 0.51 −0.04
Panjabi 19,752 0.50 +0.22
Gujarati 17,502 0.44 +0.03
Arabic 10,746 0.27 +0.01
Russian 9,426 0.24 +0.03
Italian 8,214 0.21 −0.01
Cook Islands Māori 8,124 0.20 −0.05
Thai 7,599 0.19 +0.03
Tamil 6,840 0.17 +0.02
Malaysian 6,789 0.17 −0.01
Khmer 6,729 0.17 +0.01
Fijian 6,273 0.16 +0.03
Vietnamese 5,376 0.14 +0.03
Serbo-Croatian 5,349 0.13 −0.03
Sinhala 5,220 0.13 +0.03
Min Chinese 5,166 0.13 −0.02
Persian 5,061 0.13 +0.02
Urdu 5,046 0.13 +0.02
Bahasa Indonesia 4,881 0.12 0.00
Niuean 4,548 0.11 −0.03
Malayalam 4,365 0.11 +0.05
None (e.g. too young) 67,509 1.70 −0.27


  1. ^ "Becoming a Kiwi". NZ Immigration. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  2. ^ Dyson, Ruth (6 April 2006). "NZ sign language to be third official language". New Zealand Government. 
  3. ^ Governor-General gives assent to Sign Language Bill, Press Release: Governor General, 10 April 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2006.
  4. ^ a b Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Languages of New Zealand". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, (Fifteenth edition. ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  5. ^ "2001 Census: National Summary" (PDF). Statistics New Zealand. p. 119. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  6. ^ "2013 Census totals by topic".  
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