What Language Is Spoken In New Zealand?

New Zealand is a beautiful country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It’s known for its stunning landscapes, friendly people, and vibrant culture. New Zealand is home to many different languages, including English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language, and more.

If you are planning on visiting or doing business in New Zealand, it is important to learn about New Zealand language and culture.

Keep reading to learn more about what language is spoken in New Zealand!

What Is the New Zealand Official Language?

Although English is spoken by most people in New Zealand, it doesn’t have the status of an official language.

The country has two official languages: Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. New Zealand is actually the first nation in the world to declare sign language as an official language.

What Is The Most Spoken Language in New Zealand?

What language do they speak in New Zealand the most?

By all means, English can be referred to as the New Zealand national language! Over 90% of people speak it. What is more, it is the main language used in government, the legal system, and education.

The Kiwi Slang

Everyone who’s heard of New Zealand has probably heard the term ‘Kiwi’ dozens of times. But why are New Zealanders called Kiwis? What exactly does this nickname refer to? It turns out, as with many geographically-linked nicknames, there is a lot more meaning behind it than you might think.

The origin of why New Zealanders are called Kiwis remains steeped in mystery. Some attribute it to NZ soldiers being named after an Australian bird, while others believe it has something to do with their homeland’s popular fruit!

kiwi slang kiwi bird with kiwi friut

Although this nickname may seem unusual at first, it’s quite popular and even carries national pride. It turns out, Kiwi is the name of a native bird unique to New Zealand and found nowhere else in the world. For many years, it has been used to describe both the people and products from this island country.

Kiwis are famous for their unique vernacular, which draws inspiration from Maori words, British origins, and Australian phrases. It’s impossible to talk like a Kiwi without knowing the slang! Kiwi slang – or Strine as it is also known – is the term used to refer to a broad accent and some colorful turns of phrase that are traditionally associated with New Zealand English.

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What Should You Know About New Zealand Sign Language?

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is the language of New Zealand’s Deaf Community and an integral part of the nation’s diverse culture. It is a rich visual-gestural language that has been used in this country for generations.

NZSL has its own grammar, syntax, and body of knowledge distinct from English; it is very different to spoken languages as it relies on hand shapes, facial expressions, gestures and body position to communicate meaning.

It has been in use since early European settlement and, while it has borrowed signs from Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and British Sign Language, it has developed its own unique signs as well.

There are also a number of organizations and groups that support NZSL, such as the NZSLTA (New Zealand Sign Language Teachers Association) and Deaf Aotearoa. These organizations work to promote and support NZSL in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, around 0.49% of the individuals had some knowledge of NZSL in 2018. That is a total number of 23,000. Deaf individuals for whom it is their primary language account for around 4,600.

What Is The Native Language of New Zealand?

new zealand native language te reo māor

Te reo Māori is the New Zealand native language. It’s a beautiful, unique language spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand. It is steeped in history and culture, and is an important part of New Zealand’s identity.

The Maori language is a Polynesian language similar to Tahitian and Hawaiian. It is also an endangered language, with only a handful of native speakers remaining.

There are an estimated 179,291 speakers of Maori language in New Zealand, which is around 4% of the total country’s population.

While it has lost prevalence in recent years due to a variety of factors such as assimilation and colonization, there are efforts underway to revive the language and to ensure that future generations of Maori people can continue to speak their ancestral language. The language is taught in schools, and there are a number of television and radio shows that broadcast in Maori.

Did you know that Aotearoa is the Maori name of New Zealand? It’s believed the translation in English is something like “land of the long white cloud”.

Top 10 Minority Languages in New Zealand Other Than English

The country is “made up” of people from all over the world, and as a result, there are many different languages spoken here. So, what language does New Zealand speak? The answer is not simple at all: there are over 40 different languages spoken there!

Other than English and Maori, there are plenty of minority languages that people from the various ethnic groups speak.

Here is the top 10 of them:

#10 Afrikaans

afrikaans language

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that originated in the Dutch Cape Colony in South Africa. It is the mother tongue of more than 8 million people (“Afrikaans – Worldwide distribution”) worldwide. Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa.

In New Zealand, Afrikaans is most commonly spoken by people of Dutch, South African, and German descent, and some Maori people. That makes a total of 0.79% of New Zealand people.

#9 Spanish

Around 0.83% of New Zealanders speak Spanish today. New Zealand is home to a diverse and vibrant population, with an increasing number of Spanish-speaking immigrants joining the country.

In particular, Spanish is a language that has become very popular among New Zealanders in recent years – so much so that the country’s Ministry of Education has added it to its list of approved foreign languages for teaching in schools.

#8 German

Most people in New Zealand are familiar with the three most popular languages: English, Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language. However, there is an often-overlooked language that has been around since the mid-1800s: German! This German influence can still be seen today in some parts of New Zealand, from place names to food products.

There are approximately 0.88% German speakers in the country. As one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, German is a valuable asset to have. With the rise in popularity of New Zealand as a study abroad destination and its growing ties with Germany, more and more students are considering taking up this fascinating language.

#7 Tagalog

One language that is heard frequently throughout New Zealand is Tagalog – the national language of the Philippines. According to recent statistics, 0.92% of New Zealanders identify as Tagalog speakers.

This makes it clear that there are strong communities in the country where Tagalog language can be heard in schools, workplaces, local councils, and other public places. With so many Tagalog-speaking families now established in the country and a growing interest from both expats and locals alike, it’s safe to say that Tagalog is here to stay.

#6 Chinese (Not Further Defined)

According to the latest census in New Zealand, Chinese dialects is now one of the most spoken languages in the country. It has been gaining increasing prominence, and many New Zealanders are recognizing that knowledge of this language offers numerous benefits for business and social relations alike.
Many Chinese people have come (and are still coming) to New Zealand in an attempt to reach a better standard and get better jobs respectively. 1.1% of New Zealanders speak Chinese dialects other than Mandarin and Cantonese mentioned above.

#5 Cantonese

The Cantonese language is a Chinese dialect spoken by about 77 million people worldwide. It is commonly used in Hong Kong, Macau and also in other parts of the world like Thailand and Vietnam. Cantonese is a closely-related Sino-Tibetan language to Mandarin. It has been handed down from generation to generation and continues to thrive within Chinese communities in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, it has grown to be one of the most widely spoken languages. Around 1.1% of the population across the country speak Cantonese. From traditional forms of communication such as folk music to modern-day entertainment like television shows, movies and radio talks, Cantonese has become embedded within New Zealand.

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#4 French

The French language is a vibrant and important part of the Kiwi culture. From casual conversations overheard in cafés, to kids chiming in with words they’ve picked up from their parents, all over New Zealand you can hear people speaking French. It adds flavor to this nation’s many different communities, contributes greatly to the education system, and plays an invaluable role in diplomatic and global relationships.

Nowadays there are around 1.2% French speakers in New Zealand. French is a language that has fascinated generations of New Zealanders, whether they learn it to improve their career prospects or out of pure interest in French culture. Despite English being the main language spoken by the majority of New Zealanders, French can open up whole new worlds.

#3 Hindi

hindi language

As immigrants from India continue to arrive in New Zealand, the Hindi language is making a significant presence in the country. This growing influence of Indian culture allows many native speakers of Hindi to have a sense of community and familiar language at their new home.

There are around 1.5% Hindi speakers in New Zealand.

#2 Mandarin

Mandarin is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and is the official language of China. Mandarin is now the fourth most-spoken language in New Zealand, after English, Maori, and Samoan. It is estimated that 2% of the people in the country are Mandarin speakers, and the number is increasing every year.

Mandarin writing is the most common form of Chinese writing. The majority of Chinese characters in Mandarin writing are pictographs, which represent concrete objects, and ideographs, which represent abstract concepts. Mandarin writing also includes a small number of logograms, which represent words or syllables, and phonetic symbols, which represent the sounds of Mandarin Chinese.

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#1 Samoan

Samoan Islands are close to New Zealand, so naturally there are a lot of Samoan immigrants there. So, it’s not a surprise that Samoan is the most popular minority language spoken in New Zealand.

The Samoan language is spoken by 2.2% of the people in New Zealand. Samoan is an official language of Samoa, and is also spoken in American Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.

This is an Austronesian language, belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup. It is closely related to Tahitian, Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders languages. Samoan is written in the Latin alphabet, with some additional letters used for certain sounds.

The Samoan language has been an important part of New Zealand’s culture and heritage for many years. It is featured in many popular songs and has been used in some government campaigns. Samoan is also one of the few languages that is regularly heard on New Zealand radio.

Bottom Line

This diversity of New Zealand language reflects the unique culture of New Zealand and helps to foster a sense of community and respect for all citizens. As New Zealand continues to be a welcoming and inclusive society, it is important to recognize the contributions of all languages and cultures in the country.

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