What Is The Official Language Of Australia? – Speak Your Language

GET a Quote




Live Chat

What Is The Official Language Of Australia?

Posted on: March 16, 2022 by admin

An official language is a language explicitly nominated by a country and given special legal status. That specific language must be used in specific contexts such as official documentation and by the government. Though English is used in these contexts within Australia, the country doesn’t actually have an official language. Instead, English is identified by the Australian government as the national language. According to the 2016 Census results, 90.1% of people in Australia reported that they speak English and an additional 17.4% reported that they speak English in addition to another language.


Languages That Are Spoken In Australia

While English is the overwhelmingly dominant language in Australia, there are over 300 other languages spoken. The top 6 spoken languages in Australia other than English are:

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Arabic
  • Cantonese Chinese
  • Vietnamese
  • Italian
  • Greek

Mandarin Chinese

Migration from China to Australia began as far back as the 1850s, The rate of Mandarin Chinese speakers have steadily increased since the 1990s. Chinese is the 2nd largest migrant community in Australia (after the United Kingdom) with 600,000 (2.5%) people in Australia speaking Mandarin at home. This is a notable increase from the 1.6% of speakers in 2011. While immigration is the main factor for the increase in Mandarin speakers, there is an increasing number of English speakers learning Mandarin Chinese as it is considered a key language for international business.



In the decade following World War II, Australia encouraged immigration from Italy to make up for manpower shortages. Between 1945 and 1972, almost 400,000 Italians migrated to Australia, which increased the prevalence of the Italian language in Australia. Though migration from Italy has since decreased, 1.2% of people in Australia speak Italian.



Immigration from Arabic-speaking countries also occurred predominantly in the period following World War II. The largest Arabic speaking community in Australia is the Lebanese and 1.5% of people in Australia indicate that they speak Arabic.



While Greek migration can be traced back to the 1850s, a significant immigration wave from Greek occurred between the years of World War I and World War II. There was also a substantial influx of Greek migrants after World War II until around 1972. While the rates of the Greek language in Australia are still relatively high at 1% of the population, they have decreased from 1.2% since 2011.



The most significant influx of Vietnamese migrants to Australia came during the 1970s after the Vietnam war. The Vietnamese language and culture began to flourish in Australia during the 1938-1984 period and continues to grow. From 2011 to 2016, the percentage of people in Australia that spoke Vietnamese went from 1.1% to 1.2%.



Cantonese is a Chinese local dialect and with the increase in Chinese immigration into Australia, the rates of Cantonese speakers have also increased. 1.2% of people in Australia indicate that they speak Cantonese at home.


Indigenous Languages

The first languages that were spoken in Australia were by the Indigenous Australians. In 1788, it is estimated there were as many as 700 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. However, in the 2016 census, only 160 Indigenous languages were identified as still being spoken in Australia. There were 650,000 Australians that identified as Indigenous and only 10% (63,754) of these indicated that they speak an Indigenous language with Djambarrpuyngu being the highest recorded (4,264 speakers) Indigenous language spoken.



Auslan is short for Australian Sign Language and is used to communicate with Australians who are deaf or have a hearing impairment. It’s a form of visual communication that is unique to Australia and uses hand/arm movements to convey meaning. Auslan originated around 200 years ago and was developed based on the sign languages brought over by British, Irish and Scottish immigrants. The 2016 census indicated that 11,682 people used Auslan, though the actual figure is likely to be much higher. The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreting has reported that Auslan is the 3rd most commonly interpreted language in Australia after Arabic and Mandarin Chinese.


While there is no official language in Australia, English is undoubtedly the most commonly used language and almost all Australians can communicate in English. However, Australia’s rich and diverse migrant history means the country is also home to a number of other languages. In such a linguistically diverse country, access to a reliable and affordable translation service is essential. Contact Speak Your Language today for professional translation services in over 140 languages.