Languages of Australia

Languages of Australia

Languages of
country = Australia
official = none
main = Australian English (80%)
indigenous = Australian languages, Tasmanian languages, Torres Strait Island languages
minority = Chinese (2.1%), Italian (1.9%), and Greek (1.4%)
sign = Auslan
keyboard = QWERTY
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%), 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 about 250 languages spoken by Indigenous Australians prior to the arrival of Europeans. Most of these are now either extinct or moribund, with only about twenty languages still being learnt by new generations.

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 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, 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 creoles have arisen in Australia after European contact: Kriol and Torres Strait Creole. Both are spoken in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

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

Other minority languages

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:|

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, Slovenian, Sylheti, Tai Dam, Tongan, Turoyo (2,000 speakers), Unserdeutsch, Uyghur, Northern Uzbek, and Eastern Yiddish.

External links

* [ Ethnologue report for Australia]

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