Regional Languages in Australia

Regional Languages in Australia

There is no official national language of Australia as such, but overall it’s a monolingual country with English as the most dominant language. Those who speak Australian English can be recognised by a distinct accent as well as some specific vocabulary, which makes it stand out from other English speaking countries. Many both 1st and 2nd generation Australians are bilingual and still use their languages of origin. According to statistics more than 80 percent of Australians speak English in their homes. This includes those who are second language speakers. Other languages of Australia often spoken while at home include Mandarin, at 2.9 percent, Italian at 1.2 percent, Arabic at 1.1 percent, Greek at 1 percent, Vietnamese at 0.9 percent and Spanish at 0.4 percent. In the census in 2001, 2,843,851 Australians stated that they could speak a language apart from English and this they spoke readily at home. 50,978 people reported being able to speak an indigenous language.

In 2016 of all the many smaller languages that are spoken in Australia Chinese is easily the most widely spoken, with more than 700,000 people who speak the language. At one point to help better communication it was suggested that more signs should appear in Chinese.

On top of the languages spoken by immigrants to Australia there are also nearly 400 languages which are spoken by indigenous Australians before Europeans set foot on Australian soil.  Today, out of this long list of languages, only 70 are still spoken. At least 30 are on the endangered list and may soon be lost forever. There are several languages that are Aboriginal languages which are most likely to be heard and these include Kala Lagaw Ya, Warlpiri, Western Desert language, Tiwi, Arrernte and Walmajarri.

There are also two languages in the Torres Strait in the far north of the country that are spoken today, called Meriam Mir and Kala Lagaw Ya. Meriam Mir is has its origins as a Papuan language, but Kala Lagaw Ya is one of the languages of Australia.

Since Europeans made contact with Australia 2 Creole languages have developed. One is Kriol and is spoken throughout the Northern Territory and the 2nd is Torres Strait Creole, which can be often heard spoken in the Torres Strait Islands off Cape York.

On top of these spoken languages there is also sign language which is called Auslan and is used for communication by around 10,000 people who suffer from deafness.