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Talking about countries with a tremendous diversity of languages, Australia has always been at the top of the list. While there is no official language in the country, most Australians use English as a lingua franca. According to the 2016 Census, there are an estimated more than 300 languages spoken in Australia besides English. So, What is the most spoken foreign language in Australia??
Mandarin – 685,274 Speakers
Mandarin is the world’s second most widely used language, with around 1.1 billion speakers. So, it comes as no surprise that it has become the first most spoken language in Australia besides English, with over 680 thousand speakers.
The popularity of Mandarin in Australia is highly influenced by the increasing number of Chinese immigrants coming to the country. Surprisingly, this tonal language ranks number 1 on the list in almost all Australian states, excluding the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Arabic – 367, 159 Speakers
Coming in at number 2 is Arabic, with roughly over 360 thousand speakers spreading across the Australian states. According to data from the 2021 Census, most Arabic-speaking people reside in New South Wales and Victoria.
Interestingly enough, those Arabic speakers aren’t ethnically Arab. They are emigrants from Arabic-speaking countries in North Africa and the Middle East. As reported by the AHRC, most of those emigrants came from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria before 1986. Sudanese and Iraqis were among the later-arriving MENA communities in the 1990s.
Vietnamese – 320,758 Speakers
According to the recently published 2021 Census, over 320 thousand people speak Vietnamese with their family at home. It showed an increase of over 43,000 Vietnamese speakers compared to the 2016 data.
With that number, the Vietnamese community now makes up approximately 1.2% of the population in Australia. Most of them are concentrated in urban areas of Victoria and New South Wales, such as Melbourne and Sydney.
Cantonese – 295,281 Speakers
Cantonese is a Chinese language variety, making it a prominent player in Australia’s diverse languages. According to recent census data, there are more than 290 thousand Cantonese-speaking people in Australia. It makes Cantonese the country’s fourth widely spoken language.
After the issue of the 2020 draconian security law in Hong Kong, there has been a steady increase in the number of Cantonese speakers. As per reports, New South Wales (Sydney) has the highest proportion of these Cantonese communities.
Punjabi – 239,033 Speakers
Punjabi is one of the many languages spoken in Australia. The 2021 Census reported Punjabi is Australia’s fastest-growing language, with more than 239 thousand speakers. It shows an increase of more than 80% from the recorded data in 2016.
In comparison to other Indian subcontinent languages, Punjabi has also risen to become the most popular one in Australia. Recent data shows Queensland is home to most of the country’s Punjabi speakers, followed by Victoria and Western Australia.
Greek – 229,643 Speakers
Greek has been popularly known as one of the world’s most complex languages to master. This language is the sixth most spoken in Australia, with over 220 thousand speakers. It is half of the people who claim to have Greek ancestry residing in the country.
Compared to the data from the previous census, the number of Greek speakers is down by roughly 7,000 people. Large numbers of them can be found in Victoria (Melbourne), followed by cities in New South Wales and South Australia.
Italian – 228,042 Speakers
Back in 2006, Italian was Australia’s most widely spoken language behind English. Sadly, it is now just the seventh most common language in the nation, with around 228 thousand speakers. This number shows a rapid decline of roughly 50 thousand speakers reported in the 2016 Census.
The said decline is primarily due to the passing away of many Italian speakers who came to Australia after WW II, and younger Italian descents are scarcely exposed to the language. As per the recent census, the most significant number of Italians are in Melbourne, Victoria.
Hindi – 197,132 Speakers
Hindi is the second most popular Indian language in Australia. The data of the 2021 Census reported more than 197 thousand people speak Hindi at home and Indian community. This number is up by around 40 thousand from the data in the previous census.
The increase shows that Hindi is one of the fastest-growing Indian languages in Australia. Today, a large proportion of Hindi-speaking people are residing in New South Wales (Parramatta), Victoria (Point Cook), and Queensland (Murrumba Downs).
What is the most spoken foreign language in Australia? Those were the eight most popular languages spoken in Australia. Aside from immigrant languages, Australia is also rich in local languages spoken by Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people. According to recent data, about 60 of those existing local languages only have around 150 speakers.