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Travel Guide > Australia & Oceania > Australia

Australia Languages

  
 
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Expect everyone to speak English. Generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults.

There is no single commonly used second language. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists. Some warning signs at beaches are written in several foreign languages.

Australians usually do not speak a second language fluently unless they are part of a family who immigrated recently. As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including (but not limited to) Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, German, Italian, Polish and Greek. In Australia's Chinatowns in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, Cantonese is the dominant language.

Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. A few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive elsewhere are common vernacular in Australian speech. Fanny, as in the UK, means vagina and is not used widely. Still, Australians are familiar enough with the differences to know what you mean, but they still may have a laugh at your expense.

Visitors who do not speak basic English will find communicating with Australians difficult, and should do some advance planning. There are some tour companies who specialise in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages.

Aboriginal people living in rural aboriginal communities continue to speak various Aboriginal languages. The Torres Strait Islanders, who originate from a group of islands in northern Queensland near Papua New Guinea also continue to speak their own languages. Some elders speak limited English.





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