There were between 350 and 750 distinct Australian Aboriginal languages at the time of first European contact.
David R Horton / Aboriginal Studies Press / Via abc.net.au
The most linguistically diverse regions were across Australia’s north.
Today’s heavily populated south east also contained dozens of dialects.
Only about 70 of these languages have survived.
Footie-mad Tiwi Islanders in the Northern Territory. Tiwi is one of only 10 percent of Australian languages still being learned by children. Source: Wikipedia.
All except roughly 20 languages are highly endangered.
Yolnu children from north-east Arnhem Land still learn their language, but many others are dying out.
Australia has no official language, but English is the de facto language. According to the 2011 census, 76.8 percent of people spoke only English at home.
Collectively, Australians speak over 200 languages. The most common languages other than English are: Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek and Vietnamese.
Mandarin showed the biggest increase of non–English language spoken at home in Australia’s top 20 languages, growing to 336,410 – an increase of 52.5 percent.
Punjabi is the fastest growing Australian language, showing a 207.5 percent increase from 23,164 people in 2006 to 71,229 people in 2011.
There are 60,550 speakers of Australian Aboriginal languages, spoken by around 11 percent of Australia’s 550,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
So fewer than 0.25 percent of Australians now speak one of Australia’s original languages. Pretty sad huh?