At the time of colonisation in 1788, Australia was home to over 500 Indigenous languages. Since that time, many languages have been lost forever. This year’s NAIDOC theme was our languages matter and we are compiling a list of the 10 most widely spoken Aboriginal languages.
Sadly there are many languages in Australia that are either extinct/sleeping or have less than a dozen speakers left. Even the top 10 languages listed here are considered endangered by linguists who feel there is still a chance that 50% of the world’s languages could be lost forever within the next 80-90 years. Well, we don’t want that and we hope articles like this might spark more interest for other Aboriginal people whose traditional languages are not in the top 10 to start promoting language in their communities. Even with limited numbers of speakers it is still possible to help revive languages that are currently dying. This can happen through community classes and events etc. Another great way to help promote Indigenous languages is through song.
Top 10 Aboriginal Languages playlist
Arrernte – Central Australia, Northern Territory
Djambarrpuyngu – Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Pitjantjatjara – Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands), Central Australia
Warlpiri – Central West, Northern Territory
Murrinh-Patha – Wadeye, Northern Territory
Tiwi – Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory
Luritja – Western Desert, Central Australia
Anindilyakwa – Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory
Wik Mungkan – Aurukun, Cape York, QLD
Ammatyerre – Central Australia, Northern Territory
Click here to view the full AIATSIS languages map
Please note that numbers of speakers are only estimates based on dates between 1996 & 2006. Sadly the Australian Bureau of Statistics have not released the data on the number of speakers counted during the 2016 census. It would have been a great addition to make this information public considering the theme of this years NAIDOC week is about the importance of language.
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