New Zealand

New Zealand English is the de facto official language of New Zealand and the language of the majority. Maori is the dominant indigenous language spoken in the country. There are also several other native languages which are spoken in the outlying territories and islands of New Zealand, while immigrants speak their own native languages in the country.

The Maori Language Act of 1987 granted the Maori language an official status in the country. Maori is the de jure official language of New Zealand and can be used in legal settings. English is the de facto official language of the nation and the most widely spoken language among the population. The vast majority of New Zealanders, approximately 3,819,969 people (96.14%) possess sound knowledge of the English language. The native Maori language, on the other hand, is spoken by less than 150,000 people, which translates to about 3.73% of New Zealand’s population. Out of 500,000 Maori people in the country, only 70,000 speak the language as their native tongue. Aside from English and Maori, the New Zealand Sign Language is also recognized as an official language in New Zealand and granted the official status in 2006.

Aside from the Maori language, other native languages of New Zealand include Cook Islands Maori, Niuean, Tokelauan and Penrhyn. The Cook Islands Maori is an East Polynesian language closely related to the New Zealand Maori and which is spoken in the Realm of New Zealand. It is also the official language of the Cook Island. Niuean is the official language of the Niue Island, where most of the indigenous inhabitants speak the language. Apart from the indigenous inhabitants, Niuean is also spoken by small groups in New Zealand main islands, the Cook Islands, and Tonga. Along with English, Tokelauan is the co-official language of the Tokelau Island, but is also spoken in the Swains Island (by only 17 speakers). This language is similar in nature to the Samoan language. It is spoken by about 4,260 speakers of which 1,400 are inhabitants of the Tokelau Island. New Zealand is home to about 2,100 speakers of this language. The Penrhyn language is a Polynesian language spoken in the Penrhyn Island. This language is spoken by only 200 people and, as such, is regarded as an endangered language.

New Zealand is home to many immigrants from the surrounding Polynesian Islands, who speak their native tongues in the country. The largest groups of these immigrant Polynesian languages include Samoan at around 50,000 speakers and Cook Islands Maori at around 25,000 people who speak it. New Zealand also draws a large number of immigrants from European and Asian nations. Many Asian languages, such as Hindi with its 26,200 speakers, Yue Chinese at 20,000 and Arabic at 4,000 speakers, are also fairly represented inside the country.


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