New Zealand English is the language of the majority of New Zealand. Māori is the dominant indigenous language spoken in the nation. Several other native languages are spoken in the outlying islands and territories of New Zealand. Immigrants to the country speak their own native languages.
Official Languages Of New Zealand
In New Zealand, the Maori Language Act 1987 granted an official status to the Māori language, an indigenous language of the country. Thus, Māori is the de jure official language of the country and can be used in legal settings. However, English is the de facto official language of New Zealand and is the most widely spoken language in the nation. The majority of New Zealanders have a sound knowledge of English. The language is spoken by 3,819,969 people accounting for 96.14% of the population of New Zealand. In contrast, the native Māori language is spoken by only 148,395 people, accounting for only 3.73% of New Zealand’s population. Out of a population of 500,000 Māori people, only 70,000 speak Māori as their native language. The New Zealand Sign Language is also recognized as an official language in New Zealand. It was granted the official status on April 10, 2006.
Native Languages Of New Zealand
As mentioned previously, Māori is the most spoken native language of New Zealand. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in New Zealand, Māori was the only language spoken by the indigenous people of the main islands of New Zealand. However, several other indigenous languages are spoken by the inhabitants of the territories and other outlying islands of the nation. They are as follows:
Cook Islands Māori
The Cook Islands Māori is an indigenous language that is closely related to the New Zealand Māori. This East Polynesian language is spoken in the Realm of New Zealand and is the official language of the Cook Island.
Niuean is the official language of the Niue Island. Most of the indigenous inhabitants of the island speak the language. Niuean is also spoken by small populations in New Zealand main islands, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. As per the 1998 census, 2,000 speakers of Niuean lived on the Niue Island.
The co-official language (with English) of the Tokelau Island is Tokelauan. The language is also spoken in the Swains Island. There are about 4,260 speakers of Tokelauan of which 1,400 inhabit the Tokelau Island. The Swains Island hosts only 17 Tokelauan speakers while New Zealand has about 2,100 speakers of this language. The language is quite similar to the Samoan language.
The Penrhyn language, a Polynesian language, is spoken in the Penrhyn Island. The language is spoken by only about 200 people and is thus regarded as an endangered language.
Immigrant Languages Spoken In New Zealand
New Zealand draws a large number of immigrants from the surrounding Polynesian Islands. These immigrants speak their native languages in the country. In fact, speakers of several Polynesian languages in New Zealand outnumber the number of speakers of these languages in countries where these languages are native to. The largest groups of these immigrant Polynesian languages spoken in New Zealand are Samoan (50,000 speakers) and Cook Islands Māori (25,000 speakers). The country also attracts immigrants from European and Asian nations. According to Ethnologue, Indian languages like Hindi, Yue Chinese, and Arabic are spoken by 26,200, 20,000, and 4000 speakers in New Zealand, respectively.