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What Language Do They Speak in New Zealand?

What Language Do They Speak in New Zealand

Key Takeaways

Official LanguagesEnglish, Māori, New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)
Predominant LanguageEnglish
Regional LanguagesSamoan, Mandarin, Hindi, French
Percentage of Māori Speakers4% of the population
NZSL Users20,000 to 30,000 people


New Zealand, often recognized for its breathtaking landscapes and indigenous Maori culture, has a diverse linguistic landscape. This article delves into the different languages spoken in New Zealand, highlighting not only the official languages but also regional and immigrant languages that make the nation culturally rich.

The Trio of Official Languages

1. English

English is the predominant language spoken in New Zealand. As a former British colony, English naturally became the dominant medium for communication, education, and government. However, the version of English spoken in New Zealand, known as New Zealand English, has its unique accent and colloquialisms, distinguishing it from other English dialects.

2. Māori

The Māori language, known locally as Te Reo Māori, holds great cultural significance in New Zealand. It’s the language of the indigenous Māori people and has been one of New Zealand’s official languages since 1987. The language faced a decline during the 20th century but has seen a resurgence in recent years, with initiatives to promote and revive it.

3. New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)

NZSL became an official language in 2006, giving the deaf community in New Zealand a recognized mode of communication. Derived from British Sign Language, NZSL has developed its own regional variations and is distinct from other sign languages.

Māori Language in Modern New Zealand

Government InitiativesRadio stations, TV channels, educational programs promoting Māori
Educational InstitutionsKura Kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion schools)
Major Events Celebrating Māori LanguageMāori Language Week

The use of Māori in modern New Zealand extends beyond being a mere official language. It’s interwoven with the nation’s identity. From place names to cultural events and everyday greetings like “Kia Ora” (Hello), the language is ever-present. Efforts are continually being made to revitalize the language and increase its everyday use.

Other Languages in the Linguistic Tapestry

New Zealand’s multicultural fabric is reflected in the myriad of languages spoken by its residents. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Samoan: The third most spoken language, given the significant Pacific Islander community.
  • Mandarin: As the Chinese community has grown, so has the prevalence of Mandarin speakers.
  • Hindi: Spoken by the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.
  • French: Though not as widespread, it’s spoken by a small fraction of the population.

The Importance of Language Preservation

Language is not just a medium of communication; it’s a repository of a community’s history, traditions, and worldview. The languages of New Zealand are no exception. The recent efforts to rejuvenate the Māori language highlight the significance New Zealanders place on preserving their linguistic heritage.

Why It Matters:

  • Cultural Identity: Languages like Māori form an integral part of the country’s cultural identity.
  • Historical Preservation: They offer insights into the nation’s history and the evolution of its societies.
  • Cognitive Benefits: Bilingualism and multilingualism have been linked to cognitive advantages.


New Zealand’s linguistic landscape is as diverse and rich as its natural beauty. From the official languages of English, Māori, and NZSL to regional and immigrant languages, the country is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. The commitment to preserving and promoting these languages, especially Te Reo Māori, speaks volumes about New Zealand’s dedication to its heritage and cultural identity.