Arabic second most common Australian tongue

Syndey Opera House from my Balcony

Image by RobAbroad via Flickr

The last few posts have been somewhat negative and so in a bid to reach a balance I am putting up a positive post today! It is about the number of Arabic speakers in Australia the article appeared in the Strait Times in April 2011, although I was planning to post it up I completely forgot and it’s been in my drafts folder all this time.  The article says that according to the Australian government Arabic language is the second most spoken foreign language in Australia. If you’ve ever been to Australia you will definitely agree with the report it is very possible not only to eat all types of cuisine but to also hear all types of languages spoken by the people ‘down under’ as we call them here in England. The article as usual has no editing apart from the links I have out on the highlighted words.


SYDNEY – ARABIC is the most commonly spoken language after English by young people in Australia, a study has revealed, with about one in eight multilingual children using it at home.

The Australia Early Development Index, a government-backed study of more than 260,000 children in their first year of school, found that 18 per cent spoke a language other than English.

Despite no Arabic nation making the top 15 countries of birth for Australia’s children, some 5,565 spoke the language at home, 11.8 per cent of all multilingual children.

‘The Australian population is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the world and this is represented in the children surveyed for the AEDI,’ the study said.

Vietnamese was the second-most prevalent, at 8.4 per cent, followed by Greek, Chinese dialects and Hindi, each spoken by less than 5.0 per cent. England, New Zealand, India and the United States were the top countries of birth after Australia, followed by the Philippines, China, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka. Fewer than 100 children spoke any single local tongue, the study found. — AFP


This has to be good for Intercultural and Multilingual scholars and may perhaps offer other ethnically and linguistically diverse communities a model to follow in language teaching and policy. Australia is one of those countries that has had much linguistic success not just in its language planning and policy but also in keeping alive the local languages that were under threat from English. It would be an idea for some Arab countries to look to Australia for inspiration and ideas- how do you accommodate all these varied and diverse languages and yet still keep the national language as one? I know the histories are different between the Arab world and Australia, and also the situations are different but at least there is one important similarity here: many migrants (workers) and many languages. It will not be a copy and paste operation however it will provide a tried and tested model of successful linguistic diversity management. Just an idea.  I wonder what the linguistic landscape will look like in ten years time when these children become adults.