Languages of New Zealand

Languages of New Zealand
Languages of New Zealand
Official language(s) English, Māori, New Zealand Sign Language
Sign language(s) New Zealand Sign Language
Common keyboard layout(s)
KB United States-NoAltGr.svg

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


Official languages

New Zealand became the first country in the world to adopt a sign language as an official language when it became official on 10 April 2006.[2] 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,[3] with 161,000 of the country's 4 million residents claiming conversational ability in Māori.[4]

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).[citation needed] 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).[3]


At the 2006 New Zealand Census, the following languages were spoken by more than 0.5% of the population.[5]

Language Number Percentage
English &100000000036736260000003,673,626 95.90%
Māori &10000000000157113000000157,113 4.10%
New Zealand Sign Language &1000000000002408700000024,087 0.63%
Samoan &1000000000008542300000085,423 2.23%
French &1000000000005375700000053,757 1.40%
Hindi &1000000000004458900000044,589 1.16%
Yue Chinese &1000000000004415100000044,151 1.15%
Mandarin Chinese &1000000000004139400000041,394 1.08%
Chinese (not further defined) &1000000000003870900000038,709 0.99%
German &1000000000003750900000037,509 0.98%
Tongan &1000000000002949900000029,499 0.77%
Dutch &1000000000002698200000026,982 0.70%
Korean &1000000000002696700000026,967 0.70%
Spanish &1000000000002164200000021,642 0.56%
Afrikaans &1000000000002112300000021,123 0.55%
Japanese &1000000000002088300000020,883 0.55%
None (e.g. too young) &1000000000007557000000075,570 1.97%


  1. ^ "Becoming a Kiwi". NZ Immigration. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  2. ^ Governor-General gives assent to Sign Language Bill, Press Release: Governor General, 10 April 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2006.
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "2001 Census: National Summary" (PDF). Statistics New Zealand. pp. 119. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-08-19. 
  5. ^ "2006 Census Data - QuickStats About Culture and Identity - Tables". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 

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