When it comes to the language in New Zealand, it is glaringly obvious from the moment you step from the plane that English is the only language you’ll need. It is spoken throughout the country, used on all signs and is the language of business, trade and commerce. What many people don’t realise though is that New Zealand also has two other official languages, besides English: Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. While these are much less prevalent than English, it is important to know this – to not know this would be a snub to a massive part of New Zealand’s culture.
At the time of the last census, over 96% of people living in New Zealand listed themselves as speaking English, which is a higher percentage than the United Kingdom and Australia. The second most commonly spoken language is Maori, with over 3.5% of the population speaking it fluently. While this is not a large figure, all visitors to New Zealand should still try to learn some Maori, just as an experience to take back home! There’s a list of useful Maori phrases found at Omniglot. When it comes to the other official language of New Zealand – New Zealand Sign Language – there are over 20,000 speakers, meaning that deaf travellers will find New Zealand an easy place to travel through.
New Zealand is also a really popular country for immigrants to head for, thanks to the high standard of living. This means that many other languages are now heard on the streets of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The most common of these is Samoan, with Hindi and Chinese also becoming more and more widespread. Visitors might also hear people speaking the official languages of a number of islands and territories near New Zealand, such as Cook Islands Maori and Niuean.
So, as with most countries, when you scratch beneath the surface of New Zealand, there is a lot more than at first meets the eye…