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Languages of Australia: Map


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Although Australia has no official language, it is largely monolingual with English being the de facto national language. Australian English has its own distinctive accent and vocabulary. According to the 2001 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for around 80% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Chinese (2.1%), Italian (1.9%), Vietnamese (1.7%) and Greek (1.4%). A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. It is believed that there were between 200 and 300 Australian Aboriginal languages at the time of first European contact. Only about 70 of these languages have survived and all but 20 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.


Australian English (AuE, AusE, en-AU) is the form of the English language used in Australia.

Indigenous languages

Australian languages

There were more than 250 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 by all age groups.

The 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 Tasmaniamarker are extinct today, and little reliable information about them was recorded.

Torres Strait languages

Two languages are spoken on the islands of the Torres Straitmarker, within Australian territory, that do not follow the general pattern that Australian Aboriginal languages do: Kala Lagaw Ya and Meriam Mir. Meriam Mir is considered to be a Papuan language, while Kala Lagaw Ya is generally thought to be an Australian language that has gained Papuan-like features due to language contact.

Pidgins and creoles

Two English-based creole have arisen in Australia after European contact: Kriol and Torres Strait Creole. Both are spoken in the Northern Territorymarker and Queenslandmarker.

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

Other minority languages

Sydney areas where Chinese (red), Vietnamese (yellow), Arabic (dark green), Greek (light blue), Turkish (brown), Serbian (light green) and Korean (pink) are predominantly spoken
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)Many new languages have been brought to Australia by immigrants.

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
Serbian: 95,365 (2006)
French: 93,593
Spanish: 78,878
German: 76,443
Macedonian: 67,836
Croatian: 63,611
Polish: 53,387
Turkish: 50,693
Hindi: 47,817
Maltese: 41,393
Netherlandic: 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, Scottish Gaelic, 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, and Eastern Yiddish.


  1. Zuckermann, Ghil'ad, "Aboriginal languages deserve revival", The Australian Higher Education, August 26, 2009.

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