Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in world. Aside from English, Australians speak an estimated 200+ languages. So, what are the top 10 languages spoken in Australia?
Surprisingly, Australia doesn’t have an official language, but the de facto national language of the country is English.
Top 10 Languages Spoken in Australia
So what are the top 10 languages spoken in Australia aside from English? The 2016 Census shows that the Chinese and Arabic speaking communities have built a strong community within the country.
According to the 2016 Census, the Top 10 Languages Spoken in Australia are:
Now let’s include the English language in the list and compare the 2016 Census with the 2011 Census.
|Top 10 Languages Spoken in Australia||2011||2016|
|1||English – 17,020,417||English – 16,509,291|
|2||Mandarin – 336,410||Mandarin – 596,711|
|3||Italian – 299,833||Arabic – 321,728|
|4||Arabic – 287,174||Cantonese – 280,943|
|5||Cantonese – 263,673||Vietnamese – 277,400|
|6||Greek – 252,217||Italian – 271,597|
|7||Vietnamese – 233,390||Greek – 237,588|
|8||Tagalog – 136,857||Tagalog – 182,493|
|9||Spanish – 117,499||Hindi – 159,652|
|10||Hindi – 111,351||Spanish – 140,817|
What does this list mean?
It shows that from the 23.4m people in Australia, one in four speaks a different language aside from English at home. The English language as spoken at home has decreased from 76.8% in 2011 to 72.7% in 2016.
Meanwhile, the number of people who speak other languages at home has increased. In 2001, there were only around 2.8m people who spoke a language other than English at home. By 2006, the number had increased to 3.1m. In 2011, there were already 3.9m people, and in 2016, there were 4.8m. These figures show that the number of people speaking other languages aside from English has greatly increased by around 1 million to 4.9 million in just a few years.
The list confirms that Australia is a fast-changing, culturally diverse country. Let’s take the Italian language as an example. In the 2001 and 2006 Census, it was at the top of the list – the most spoken language in Australia aside from English. This was largely due to the huge influx of migration from Italy in the 20th century. Years passed, and in the 2011 Census, Italian speakers were slowly decreasing, to sit 3rd on the list.
The number of Chinese immigrants has increased, and the Mandarin language came in at number 2 on the list.. Up until 2016, Mandarin has topped the list of the most spoken languages aside from English. In just a decade, the number of Mandarin speakers in Australia grew by more than 170%.
For a more detailed view of the top 10 languages spoken in Australia. We’ll take a look at the top languages spoken in the different states of Australia.
|Rank||New South Wales||Victoria||Western Australia||Queensland||South Australia||Tasmania||Northern Territory||Australian Capital Territory|
|1||Mandarin||Mandarin||Mandarin||Mandarin||Italian||Mandarin||Australian Indigenous Languages||Mandarin|
|2||Arabic||Italian||Italian||Tagalog/ Filipino||Mandarin||Nepali||Tagalog/ Filipino||Vietnamese|
|7||Tagalog/ Filipino||Punjabi||Arabic||Korean||Tagalog/ Filipino||Tagalog/ Filipino||Vietnamese||Arabic|
|9||Spanish||Tagalog/ Filipino||Persian/ Dari||Punjabi||Arabic||Dutch||Thai||Greek|
|10||Korean||Persian/ Dari||Indonesian||Japanese||Hindi||Persian/ Dari||Hindi||Korean|
From the table above, you can see a lot of languages that are common for each Australian State. The Northern Territory is the only Australian state that has the Australian Indigenous Languages as its most spoken language. In addition to that, it has the lowest number of Australians who speak English at home at 58 per cent.
The variant of English spoken in Australia is often called Australian English.
But why? What makes it different from the other variations of the English languages?
The Australian English language is more related to British English because of the First Settlers who arrived in 1788. Most of the settlers then were from different mutually intelligible dialectal British Isles regions. After setting up the Colony of New South Wales, the first generation of the early settlers who were born in Australia intermingled with one another. As a result, the English language evolved into an entirely different English variety.
Australian English has a unique accent, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, register and spelling. And since Australians often use slang words to express themselves, a lot of English speaking foreigners can’t understand many sentences spoken in Australia.
The immigration trend has slowly changed how the English language is used in Australia. With so many Australians having been born overseas, or with at least one parent born overseas, the number of languages spoken in Australia has significantly increased. However, before many immigrants can receive permanent residency in Australia they have to pass an English test. This shows that many immigrants to Australia speak English. Despite this, their native language will still accompany them during their early stages of life.
In most cases, immigrants use their native languages at home. According to the 2016 census, around 27% of Australians don’t speak English at home. And this number is continuously increasing.
All in all, we can see from the data above that Australia is very diverse when it comes to its languages. Despite the Australian English as the de facto national language of the country, the immigration patterns and history of the country has lead to several languages spoken in Australian homes aside from the English language.
Australia can greatly use this language diversity to help in fostering international ties and triggering cultural exchanges. In trade agreements, bilingual skills are often needed for facilitation.