Since Australia’s official adoption of multiculturalism, governments and community organisations alike have acknowledged the fact that in a diverse society, there are barriers to some communities.
These barriers include simply accessing services and their level of participation in policymaking. Attempts to address these barriers involve identifying parts of the population throughout to have these special cultural characteristics and cultural needs.
This is known as ‘CALD’. Many people in Australia are descendants of immigrants, have a parent who was born abroad or speaks several languages. These groups are known as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people.
The phrase "culturally and linguistically diverse" (CALD) is frequently used to characterise individuals who have a distinct cultural heritage from the majority of Anglo-Australian people.
CALD is used for people who are not of Anglo-Celtic, English speaking backgrounds. CALD can also be an umbrella term for a range of people who have different cultural backgrounds and speak a language other than English at home.
Definitions of CALD aren’t set in stone, but in practice usually match that of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS): “if you’re born overseas, and you speak a language other than English at home or aren’t proficient in English, then you’re considered culturally and linguistically diverse.”
How Did The Term CALD Come About?
Over the years, we’ve seen a cycle of acronyms used to refer to these groups. One was Non-English Speaking Background (NESB), which became a proxy indicator for what was once known as “ethnic” communities. By the 1990s and early 2000’s, NESB came to be perceived as a simplistic and potentially condescending term and has since been replaced by the CALD designation in most contexts.
The term CALD has replaced the phrase "Non-English Speaking Background" (NESB) as an acronym to describe Australians whose first language is not English. CALD is a more correct term because some CALD individuals may have been born in Australia.
So, How Can Your Business Ensure CALD Populations Feel Included?
The term "culturally and linguistically diverse" is a broad phrase that refers to communities with many languages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, customs, societal organisations, and religions. They not only add to a community's diversity and vitality, but they may also aid in its economic development, encourage new and existing businesses, and strengthen social bonds.
CALD communities often face barriers to participation due to limited knowledge, language and cultural differences. The Australian-wide government and organisations are constantly making conscious efforts to communicate with the CALD audience, as they offer tremendous value to the wider Australian economy.
Here are five tips for how you can reach out to CALD people you want to engage with.
Many CALD individuals are multilingual with a first language other than English and a secondary level of English proficiency. As well, there are cultural traditions and religious variations. The key to understanding any CALD individual is to learn about their history, values, beliefs, customs, and traditions. A lack of knowledge of a CALD individual can cause friction and long-term practical barriers. The more information you have on a particular CALD individual, the better placed you are to communicate effectively. So, what are some effective communication strategies?
1) Use language that is culturally appropriate and understandable to your audience (e.g, plain language)
2) Include pictures or illustrations when possible. This helps convey information in a more effective manner.
3) Be clear about who you are and why you are there.
4) Provide an opportunity for questions.
5) Make sure your message is delivered with respect.
6) Be willing to listen to feedback.
A willingness to self-educate and tailor to each CALD group and/or individual will help remove language barriers, in a more connected environment
To achieve inclusivity objectives, organisational policies, programs and services must be thoughtful and accurate to the needs of different CALD communities. Considering the needs of a diverse population in all parts of work, like strategic planning, policy, assessment and program design is helpful to meeting such individuals where they are. By doing so, organisations develop more effective pathways through which the CALD community can access their services.
For example, consider:
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current service delivery system?
• What are the issues faced by the CALD community?
• Who are the key stakeholders?
• What are their needs? Do they have access to services?
• What are your organisational values?
• What are our goals?
• What are we trying to accomplish?
• Are there any gaps between our policies and practices?
• What are ways to improve our processes?
3. Build Trust
For most CALD communities, developing relationships through face-to-face interaction is an integral part of creating trust between people. In working with these communities, it is crucial to build those relationships and create those connections. For example, organisations can implement this approach by working with local cultural community groups and multicultural communities that have connections with their target populations, or by working with some prominent community leaders who would have the capacity to help promote their program.
4. Cultural Awareness
It is paramount that organisations work towards showing awareness of the cultural factors that affect CALD communities, both in terms of how they speak English and their cultural background and customs. Ignoring cultural and religious practises could create a barrier between an organisation and its target population, as well as alienate that community from the organisation. As such, organisations should take special care to ensure they are sensitive to cultural and religious differences. Some factors to consider are the country of origin, religious affiliation, and if they are from a minority ethnic background.
5. Apply a Range of Approaches
To attract attention to the unique needs of CALD communities when designing services, there are various ways to go about doing this, such as using language services, providing visuals to help communicate effectively, the use of translation services, and understanding different levels of English proficiency.
Research on the needs of CALD populations within organisations can draw from a range of theoretical perspectives. Within this context, numerous studies have examined issues affecting CALD communities in accessing services and barriers to education tools. Although much research has been conducted to explore service design for this population, it is important to consider which theoretical approaches are most appropriate for the key issues in the given situation.
Inclusion is a superpower that improves society as a whole through common understanding, compassion and connection. To support an inclusive service model, consider the needs of CALD populations. Given the unique challenges faced by many CALD communities, it is advisable to adopt a strength-based approach that recognises individual differences and works with those individuals where they are. By doing so, organisations can develop better and more effective pathways through which CALD communities can access their services - and in turn, foster a more equitable society for everyone. LEXIGO is all about helping businesses bridge the cultural diversity gap in various community sectors.
For Australia’s population of nearly 1.5 million people of Chinese descent, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important cultural celebration after Lunar New Year. The festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, during autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also known as the Moon Festival, the Harvest Moon Festival or the Mooncake Festival, because of the moon-shaped cakes that are traditionally given as gifts during the festival period.
The celebration became popular around 1300 years ago in the time of the Tang Dynasty. It coincides with the end of harvest celebration in the middle of autumn and is traditionally believed to be the day when the full moon shines brightest. It is shrouded in history, traditions and symbolism. It represents an important way for contemporary Chinese people to celebrate and preserve their culture, heritage and community.
These days, perhaps the most commonly known aspect of the celebration is the gifting of mooncakes. These ornate pastries can be filled with red bean or lotus seed paste, or yolks from salted duck eggs. Contemporary pastry chefs are known to get creative with the flavours, experimenting with concoctions such as sweet potato and ginger soup, cream corn soup, black sesame glutinous rice ball and even Beef Wellington.
Colourful lanterns are also an important part of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations and can be seen hung on trees or buildings in many cities and towns where the festival is celebrated. Hong Kong’s Lee Tung Avenue (LTA) is lined with nearly 1,000 lanterns for the crowds to enjoy and people can even try making their own lanterns. Traditionally the lanterns symbolise family reunion, as they illuminate the way home.
Across China and east Asia, there is huge commercial activity surrounding the celebration and it is spreading with the diaspora. A plethora of luxurious mooncakes are marketed to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore’s trendy elite, elaborate lanterns are sold on the streets of Hong Kong and deluxe Moon Cake gift boxes are even available in Australia.
LEXIGO translator Cecilia Chiu originally hails from Hong Kong and is now based in Tasmania. She shared what the Mid-Autumn Festival means to her and Australia’s Chinese diaspora.
Do you think the Full Moon Festival is important to the Chinese diaspora in Australia?
Every part of our traditions (including Mid-Autumn Festival) is important to us. It is the many different aspects of our traditions that shape our culture. In this sense, yes, the Mid-Autumn Festival is important to us.
How do you celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival?
I have not always celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival since I moved to Tasmania. When friends of the same ethnicity have time, we may have a meal together. Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival becomes a pretext for socialising rather than observing the tradition.
Last year, our celebration was a bit special. Friends got together and made mooncakes ourselves.
How do celebrations differ for you compared to when you lived in Hong Kong to now living in Australia?
Celebrations in Tasmania are very different from what I used to have in Hong Kong where festive foods and paraphernalia were readily available off the shelf.
Here in Tasmania, we have to make them our own, such as the lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival. We even bake our own mooncakes if we have time. To a certain extent, this is good. Celebration activities here are less commercialised and ‘getting our hands dirty’ makes us appreciate the traditional aspects more.
What's your favourite type of mooncake?
I love the snow skin mooncakes, which is a modern form of mooncake. Snow skin mooncakes are a non-baked mooncake originating from Hong Kong. Unlike the traditional baked mooncakes, snow skin mooncake uses less sugar and fat which is comparatively a healthier food.
There is a legend about mooncakes. It was once a revolutionary vehicle at the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 CE). Han Chinese concealed messages in the mooncakes (think of it as a forerunner of fortune cookies!) to rebel against the ruling Mongols on Mid-Autumn Day.
Read more about the fascinating history of the Mid-Autumn Festival here.
The 2021 Census results data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics was officially released on 28 June 2022 and provided excellent insight into Australia's population, including data on cultural diversity.
A record number of people and households responded in the 2021 Census period - in fact, a total of 96.1 per cent of Australians responded, and the results showed an increasingly multicultural society.
"This increasingly diverse social and cultural landscape present in the 2021 census is a great strength for Australian society."The Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Dr Hass Dellal.
The data is a goldmine of statistical information on a range of other topics too, including:
However, for this article, we'll take a closer look at cultural and language diversity indicators to explore the current state of multicultural Australia.
Even then, the depth and breadth of data can be daunting, so this post will attempt to provide some context around Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Australians and how the multicultural landscape is changing.
As a multicultural country, the first release of data from Australia's 2021 Census shows that:
The top five ancestries identified in the 2021 Census were:
The top five countries of birth outside Australia were:
An interesting observation is that the vast majority in this list are officially English-speaking countries (all but China).
Not surprisingly, the most common language spoken at home is English, followed by:
In contrast to the top 5 countries of birth, 4 of the top 5 countries in this list are non-English speaking countries.
Across Australia, over 5.5 million people speak a language other than English at home, equating to around 21.5% of Australia’s total population of 25.5 million, or over one in five people.Australian Bureau of Statistics
The language that has seen the most significant increase in use in Australian homes since the last census is Punjabi.
In the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, Nepali is in the top five most commonly spoken languages, with 1.3% of those populations using it at home.
Across the Australian population, over 5.5 million people speak a language other than English at home, equating to around 21.5% of Australia's total population of 25.5 million, or more than one in five people.
Compared to previous years;
On a global scale, Australia's neighbours Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum, 840 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, almost 12% of the total number of languages worldwide.
Indonesia has an estimated 711 languages across the archipelago. One theory about why these countries have so many languages is that many of their communities are geographically isolated.
Over 80% of Papua New Guinea's population lives in rural areas, and Indonesia is a collection of thousands of islands.
Indonesia, it's interesting to note, has achieved the impressive feat of establishing a national lingua franca without destroying its linguistic diversity. Australia ranks sixth in the world for linguistic diversity, between the United States in fifth and China in seventh place.
How does Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity compare to other countries?
According to the CIA World Factbook, the latest data on languages spoken at home show that 78.2% of US households speak English only, 13.4% Spanish, 1.1% Chinese and 7.3% other.
Interestingly, the United States has no official national language. English has official status in 32 of 50 states, Hawaiian is an official language in Hawaii, and Alaska has 20 official indigenous languages.
The CIA World Factbook also identifies ethnic groups in the United States as 61.6% White, 18.7% Hispanic (including people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latinx origin), 12.4% Black or African American, 6% Asian, 1.1% Amerindian and Alaska native and 0.2% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.
Over 350 languages are spoken in homes across the United States, and around 44.9 million people or 13.7% of the total US population, were born overseas, according to 2019 statistics.
Statistics on New Zealand's cultural and linguistic diversity are based on their 2018 Census. English is the de facto national language (it does not have legal status as the official language but is spoken by most citizens), spoken by 95.4% of Kiwis.
Maori is legally recognised as an official national language and is spoken by 4% of the population. Other languages spoken in New Zealand include 2.2% Samoan, 2% Northern Chinese, 1.5% Hindi, 1.2% French and 1.1% Yue (a dialect from Southern China).
Kiwis identified as 64.1% European, 16.5% Maori, 4.9% Chinese, 4.7% Indian, 3.9% Samoan, 1.8% Tongan, 1.7% Cook Islands Maori, 1.5% English, 1.5% Filipino, 1% New Zealander and 13.7% other (percentages add up to over 100% because census respondents could identify with more than one cultural identity).
Over a quarter of New Zealand residents, 27.4%, were born overseas.
English and French are the official languages of Canada, with 63.7% of Canadians speaking English at home and 20% speaking French at home, according to the 2016 Census (language statistics from the 2021 Census are due for release in November 2022).
0.3% of Canadians speak an aboriginal language at home. Over 200 languages are spoken in Canada, plus 60 Indigenous languages.
Canada's most common international languages are Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, German, Tagalog, Arabic, Portuguese, Polish and Urdu. Of Canada's population of nearly 37 million, over 7 million people, or around 18%, were born overseas.
How can you find more ABS census data and information?
The 2021 Australian Census data illustrates that Australia's cultural and linguistically diverse nation can provide incredible opportunities for businesses and government alike. By understanding the latest census data to communicate and engage more effectively with members of a culturally and linguistically diverse community and with people from diverse backgrounds.
LEXIGO will create more tools, analyses and guides for understanding and making the most of this valuable information to enable effective communication across 171 languages. Check out LEXIGO's guide for choosing languages for your multilingual campaign here.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released most of the 2021 Census data on 28 June 2022, with smaller and more complex topics to be released in late 2022 and early to mid-2023. They will also host online and in-person events around the 2021 Census data release.
Cross-cultural training (CCT) is a type of training designed to improve communication skills between individuals who come from different cultures or backgrounds. CCT helps employees become better at understanding each other’s perspectives and behaviours, regardless of their culture or background. It can also help them understand how they might be perceived by others in the workplace. This will allow both parties to gain a greater appreciation for one another and develop more effective ways of working together.
Why Should Your Team Have Cross-Cultural Training?
The world is becoming more globalised, and as a result, it’s become increasingly important for companies to be able to operate in multiple markets. This means that they need to have employees who can work cross-culturally with people from around the globe. However, many organisations struggle to find qualified candidates who possess this skill set.
As a result, they turn to cross-cultural training courses to fill this gap. These classes allow participants to practice working with people from diverse backgrounds. They also expose participants to new languages and cultural norms. The goal of these programs is to teach participants how to communicate effectively across cultures.
In addition, cross-cultural training can help companies meet the demands of international markets. For example, it enables managers to understand the language and culture of different countries. This allows them to make informed decisions when dealing with customers.
Furthermore, it gives employees an opportunity to explore their own cultural identities. As a result, it helps them develop an appreciation for diversity and tolerance.
10 Benefits of Cross-Cultural Training
There is no doubt that cross-cultural training has become an essential part of any organisation’s strategy. However, many organisations still struggle to implement it effectively and efficiently. The following article will highlight some of the benefits of implementing cross-cultural training within your organisation.It increases productivity. According to research conducted by the International Labour Organisation, companies that offer cross-cultural training experience higher levels of productivity compared to those that don’t.
1. It increases productivity. According to research conducted by the International Labour Organisation, companies that offer cross-cultural training experience higher levels of productivity compared to those that don’t.
2. It improves customer service. When customers feel comfortable interacting with members of your team, they’ll be more likely to provide feedback and share ideas.
3. It reduces turnover rates. Employees who receive cross-cultural training are less likely to leave their jobs because they know how to interact with colleagues from different cultures.
4. It boosts morale. Research shows that workers who participate in cross-cultural training are happier than those who don’t. As a result, they’re also less likely to take time off or complain about their workload.
5. It helps employees develop skills. As mentioned above, cross-cultural training allows individuals to gain valuable insights into other cultures. This knowledge can help them develop better communication skills and become more efficient at solving problems.
6. It leads to greater innovation. In order to innovate, businesses must first learn about the needs of their target market. By participating in cross-cultural training programs, companies can learn about the preferences and behaviours of people from all over the world. Through these interactions, they can discover ways to improve products and services.
7. It provides a competitive advantage. Companies that invest in cross-cultural training not only increase productivity but also enhance their ability to compete against rivals. They’re able to identify potential opportunities in foreign markets and adapt their strategies accordingly.
8. It saves money. Organisations that offer cross-cultural training often see significant cost savings as a result of fewer staff absences. In addition, they’re able to reduce the number of complaints filed by dissatisfied clients.
9. It builds trust. Employees who have participated in cross-cultural training usually form stronger relationships with their colleagues. As a result, there’s a lower chance of conflict and misunderstandings occurring.
10. It creates a positive work environment. When employees work together in a collaborative manner, they’re more likely to enjoy their job. Moreover, they’re less likely to engage in disruptive behaviour.
How Does Cross-Cultural Training Work?
The goal of CCT is to help people understand how to communicate with others in unfamiliar situations. The process involves three steps:
Step 1: Identifying cultural differences. This step involves identifying what makes one culture different from another. For example, if you were asked to identify the most common difference between American and Chinese cultures, you might say something like this: “Americans are more direct than Chinese. They speak their minds without worrying about offending others.”
Step 2: Understanding cultural differences. Once you have identified the key differences between two cultures, you can begin to understand them and learn how they affect your own behaviour. For example, if I told you that Americans tend to be direct, you could then ask yourself whether being direct is an effective way to get things done. If so, you’d need to change your approach. However, if you find that being direct doesn’t work for you, you could try using indirect language instead.
Step 3: Adjust your behaviour accordingly. After you’ve learned about the differences between cultures, you should adjust your behaviour accordingly. For instance, if you’re trying to make friends with someone new, you may want to use indirect language when talking about personal topics.
The goal of cross-cultural training is to increase awareness of cultural differences so that people are able to work more effectively together across cultures. This may involve learning about the values, beliefs, attitudes, customs, and traditions of one another. It’s important that your staff are able to work together effectively as it will make things easier for you as an employer. When people feel comfortable with one another, they are more likely to get along well and perform better.
Have you ever wondered why Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year? Or why Christmas is always on the same date but Easter changes? Ramadan is on a different date every year, too. Well, it depends on which calendar you're using.
The calendar now in general use worldwide, for secular purposes at least, is called the Gregorian Calendar (we’ll discuss the exceptions of Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia further down). It is a solar dating system proclaimed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was based on the Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar, on the advice of Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, who introduced the Egyptian solar calendar.
This system divided the year into 12 months which all had 30 or 31 days except for February, which had 28 days, and 29 days in every fourth year. The Julian measurement calculated the solar year as 365.25 days, however it is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.25 seconds.
By Pope Gregory’s time, the date did not match the season, so he advanced the date by 10 days. Also, in the Gregorian calendar, century years cannot be leap years unless they are exactly divisible by 400 (such as 1600 and 2000).
The Ancient Egyptian Calendar, unlike its contemporaries that focussed on the Moon, was based on the Sun and was the predecessor to the Julian Calendar. It had 365 days and 12 months, each consisting of three, 10-day weeks. The last five days of the year were the birthdays of five deities. There were three seasons, however the calendar got further and further away from correlating with the seasons because they did not have a leap year.
The Egyptian exception leads us to the Coptic Calendar. When Pope Gregory implemented the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, Christians who were not aligned with the Roman Catholic Church decided to stick with the Julian calendar (at least initially). The Coptic Orthodox Church, a Christian church founded in Egypt by the Apostle Mark, has its own calendar based on the Ancient Egyptian system.
According to the Coptic calendar, the first day of the year is 11 September, or 12 September in leap years and Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is celebrated on 7 January. Easter – when Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead – is celebrated on the same day as some Orthodox Easters (determined by the Julian calendar). In contemporary Egypt, Easter Monday is a public holiday and it also coincides with Sham El Nessim, a national festival marking the start of Spring that dates back to ancient times.
The Ethiopian Calendar, also known as the Ge’ez or Amharic Calendar, is based on the ancient Coptic Calendar.
It also has 12, 30-day months plus five or six days, sometimes known as the thirteenth month, to match the Sun's cycles. Like the Coptic Calendar, Ethiopian New Year, called Enkutatash, is celebrated on 11 or 12 September according to the Gregorian Calendar. Another big celebration for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians is Meskel, celebrated on 27 or 28 September to commemorate the Finding of the True Cross, on which Jesus was believed to be crucified.
Ge’ez is the ancient language of northern Ethiopia and southern Eritrea. Amharic, Afan Oromo, Afar, Somali and Tigrigna are the official languages of contemporary Ethiopia (the later four were added in 2020).
Nepal is another country that does not use the Gregorian Calendar. The official calendar is called Bikram Sambat or Vikram Samvat. It’s a lunar Hindu calendar used in Nepal and some Indian states.
There’s also Nepal Sambat, another lunar calendar used to determine the dates of religious festivals, birthdays and death anniversaries. One of the most important festivals in Nepal is Dashain, which generally happens from late September to mid-October at the end of the monsoon season.
Another significant date celebrated in many countries around the world is Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year. The Gregorian calendar is used in China for secular purposes, however the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar determines important festival dates such as Lunar New Year.
Lunisolar calendars use the Moon to calculate months and the Sun to calculate years. This method was also used historically in the Middle East, except Egypt, and Ancient Greece.
The world’s approximately 1.8 billion people of Muslim faith use the Islamic Calendar, also known as the Hijri calendar, to determine their key religious dates.
It is designed to follow the Moon's cycles and contains 12 lunar months that begin when a new moon is sighted and each year has 354 or 355 days. Each month alternates between 29 and 30 days, except the last month, which varies based on a 30-year cycle.
The Hijri Year begins on the day the Prophet Muhammad started his migration from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution. The holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to deepen their relationship with Allah, is the ninth month in the Hijri calendar.
Ramadan ends with the feast of Eid Al-Fitr. Another major feast day in the Islamic calendar is Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the hajj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims who are financially and physically capable must complete at least once in their lives.
In Iran and Afghanistan, the official calendar is the Solar Hijri calendar, also known as the Iranian or Persian Calendar. It is based on astronomical observations of the Sun and is the most accurate calendar in the world.
Like the Islamic Hijri calendar, the year count for the Solar Hijri calendar also began with the Prophet Mohammed’s migration to Medina in 622 CE. However, because the Islamic Calendar is lunar and the Persian Calendar is solar, they are now up to different years.
The date of Easter is based on the lunar cycle. It falls on the first Sunday after the first full Moon following the Northern Hemisphere Spring equinox, which falls on 20 or 21 March.
Seasons play an important part in determining key dates in calendars across many cultures. For example, the traditional Persian New Year, called Nourooz, dating back to the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism, falls on the first day of the Northern Hemisphere Spring.
Similarly, Chinese New Year marks the "Start of Spring’ and falls between 21 January and 20 February on the Gregorian calendar.
So how are the seasons defined? Countries further away from the Equator have four seasons defined as:
In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology starts the seasons on the first of the month (Spring begins on 1 September, Summer on 1 December, Autumn on 1 March and Winter on 1 June). This is just for simplicity.
Explore the countries that are part of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Games and the languages they speak.
At the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, English will be the only official language. English is not, however, the only language spoken in the 54 countries and 18 territories that will compete in the Games. When we look at all the languages spoken across the Commonwealth, it paints a diverse picture of the people who inhabit it and the complex histories of Commonwealth member states and territories. LEXIGO has collated a list of languages spoken across the Commonwealth, mostly based on the CIA World Factbook, below.
It would be incorrect to assume that everyone competing in the Commonwealth Games speaks English. As the table below outlines, in many of the competing countries and territories, English is only spoken by officials or a minority. Even in countries where English is spoken by the majority of people, it certainly does not represent the only language widely spoken. In Australia, as discussed in LEXIGO’s blog post about the 2021 Census results, over one in five people speak a language other than English at home. This includes 167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. In New Zealand, Maori is legally recognised as an official language and is spoken by 4% of the population. 63.7% of Canadians speak English at home, while 20% use Canada’s other official language, French. Even in England itself some people in Cornwell still use the Cornish language (Kernewek).
Currently the Commonwealth does not support linguistic diversity. Eligibility to join the modern Commonwealth includes acceptance of “Commonwealth norms and conventions, such as the use of the English language as the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations”. There could be scope, however, to support the linguistic diversity of its members, as other multilateral organisations have done. For example, French, English and German are the main working languages of the European Union, and a total of 24 languages have official status. Furthermore, the Council of Europe has a Charter for Regional or Minority Languages whereby 79 languages are protected and promoted to enable speakers to use them in public and private life.
Protecting linguistic diversity plays an important role in preserving cultures, the knowledge they encompass and creating equality in multilateral organisations. UNESCO says languages are strategically important to people and the planet because of their “complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development”. With organisations such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO already benefitting and working to protect linguistic diversity, it could be time for the Commonwealth to follow suit. In LEXIGO’s blog post about linguistic diversity vs lingua franca, experts pointed out that “when a social movement operates across language barriers (as opposed to movements where everyone speaks the same native language), deliberations are more equal”.
While linguistic diversity does not appear to be on the agenda for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, there could be an opportunity for Australia’s linguistic diversity to be promoted and used at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.
|Antigua and Barbuda||English (official), Antiguan creole|
|Australia||English, 2.7% Mandarin, 1.4% Arabic, 1.3% Vietnamese, 1.2% Cantonese, 0.9% Punjabi|
|Bahamas||English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)|
|Barbados||English (official), Bajan (English-based creole language, widely spoken in informal settings)|
|Belize||English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.5%; note - shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)|
|Bermuda||English (official), Portuguese|
|Botswana||Setswana 77.3%, Sekalanga 7.4%, Shekgalagadi 3.4%, English (official) 2.8%, Zezuru/Shona 2%, Sesarwa 1.7%, Sembukushu 1.6%, Ndebele 1%, other 2.8% (2011 est.)|
|British Virgin Islands||English|
|Brunei||Malay (Bahasa Melayu) (official), English, Chinese dialects|
|Cameroon||24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)|
|Canada||English (official) 58.7%, French (official) 22%, Punjabi 1.4%, Italian 1.3%, Spanish 1.3%, German 1.3%, Cantonese 1.2%, Tagalog 1.2%, Arabic 1.1%, other 10.5% (2011 est.)|
|Cayman Islands||English (official) 90.9%, Spanish 4%, Filipino 3.3%, other 1.7%, unspecified 0.1% (2010 est.)|
|Cook Islands||English (official) 86.4%, Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan) (official) 76.2%, other 8.3% (2011 est.)|
|Cyprus||Greek (official) 80.9%, Turkish (official) 0.2%, English 4.1%, Romanian 2.9%, Russian 2.5%, Bulgarian 2.2%, Arabic 1.2%, Filipino 1.1%, other 4.3%, unspecified 0.6%; note - data represent only the Republic of Cyprus (2011 est.)|
|Dominica||English (official), French patois|
|Eswatini||English (official, used for government business), siSwati (official)|
|Falkland Islands||English 89%, Spanish 7.7%, other 3.3% (2006 est.)|
|Fiji||English (official), iTaukei (official), Fiji Hindi (official)|
|Ghana||English (official), Asante 16%, Ewe 14%, Fante 11.6%, Boron (Brong) 4.9%, Dagomba 4.4%, Dangme 4.2%, Dagarte (Dagaba) 3.9%, Kokomba 3.5%, Akyem 3.2%, Ga 3.1%, other 31.2% (2010 est.)|
|Gibraltar||English (used in schools and for official purposes), Spanish, Italian, Portuguese|
|Grenada||English (official), French patois|
|Guernsey||English, French, Norman-French dialect spoken in country districts|
|Guyana||English (official), Guyanese Creole, Amerindian languages (including Caribbean and Arawak languages), Indian languages (including Caribbean Hindustani, a dialect of Hindi), Chinese (2014 est.)|
|India||Hindi 43.6%, Bengali 8%, Marathi 6.9%, Telugu 6.7%, Tamil 5.7%, Gujarati 4.6%, Urdu 4.2%, Kannada 3.6%, Odia 3.1%, Malayalam 2.9%, Punjabi 2.7%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.1%, other 5.6%; note - English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; there are 22 other officially recognized languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2011 est.)|
|Isle of Man||English, Manx Gaelic (about 2% of the population has some knowledge)|
|Jamaica||English, English patois|
|Jersey||English (official) 94.5%, Portuguese 4.6%, other .9% (includes French (official) and Jerriais)|
|Kenya||English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages|
|Kiribati||I-Kiribati, English (official)|
|Lesotho||Sesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa|
|Malawi||English (official), Chewa (common), Lambya, Lomwe, Ngoni, Nkhonde, Nyakyusa, Nyanja, Sena, Tonga, Tumbuka, Yao; note: Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects; Nkhonde and Nyakyusa are mutually intelligible dialects|
|Malaysia||Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note - Malaysia has 134 living languages - 112 indigenous languages and 22 non-indigenous languages; in East Malaysia, there are several indigenous languages; the most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan|
|Maldives||Dhivehi (official, dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English (spoken by most government officials)|
|Malta||Maltese (official) 90.1%, English (official) 6%, multilingual 3%, other 0.9% (2005 est.)|
|Mauritius||Creole 86.5%, Bhojpuri 5.3%, French 4.1%, two languages 1.4%, other 2.6% (includes English, one of the two official languages of the National Assembly, which is spoken by less than 1% of the population), unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)|
|Mozambique||Makhuwa 26.1%, Portuguese (official) 16.6%, Tsonga 8.6%, Nyanja 8.1, Sena 7.1%, Lomwe 7.1%, Chuwabo 4.7%, Ndau 3.8%, Tswa 3.8%, other Mozambican languages 11.8%, other 0.5%, unspecified 1.8% (2017 est.)|
|Namibia||Oshiwambo languages 49.7%, Nama/Damara 11%, Kavango languages 10.4%, Afrikaans 9.4% (also a common language), Herero languages 9.2%, Zambezi languages 4.9%, English (official) 2.3%, other African languages 1.5%, other European languages 0.7%, other 1% (2016 est.); note: Namibia has 13 recognized national languages, including 10 indigenous African languages and 3 European languages|
|Nauru||Nauruan 93% (official, a distinct Pacific Island language), English 2% (widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes), other 5% (includes I-Kiribati 2% and Chinese 2%) (2011 est.); note: data represent main language spoken at home; Nauruan is spoken by 95% of the population, English by 66%, and other languages by 12%|
|New Zealand||English (de facto official) 95.4%, Maori (de jure official) 4%, Samoan 2.2%, Northern Chinese 2%, Hindi 1.5%, French 1.2%, Yue 1.1%, New Zealand Sign Language (de jure official) 0.5%, other or not stated 17.2% (2018 est.); note: shares sum to 124.1% due to multiple responses on the 2018 census|
|Nigeria||English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, over 500 additional indigenous languages|
|Niue||Niuean (official) 46% (a Polynesian language closely related to Tongan and Samoan), Niuean and English 32%, English (official) 11%, Niuean and others 5%, other 6% (2011 est.)|
|Norfolk Island||English (official) 44.9%, Norfolk (also known as Norfuk or Norf'k, which is a mixture of 18th century English and ancient Tahitian) 40.3%, Fijian 1.8%, other 6.8%, unspecified 6.2% (2016 est.)|
|Northern Ireland||Irish (Gaelic), Ulster Scots and English.|
|Pakistan||Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Saraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashto (alternate name, Pashtu) 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%|
|Papua New Guinea||Tok Pisin (official), English (official), Hiri Motu (official), some 839 indigenous languages spoken (about 12% of the world's total); many languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers; note: Tok Pisin, a creole language, is widely used and understood; English is spoken by 1%-2%; Hiri Motu is spoken by less than 2%|
|Rwanda||Kinyarwanda (official, universal Bantu vernacular) 93.2%, French (official) <0.1, English (official) <0.1, Swahili/Kiswahili (official, used in commercial centers) <0.1, more than one language, other 6.3%, unspecified 0.3% (2002 est.)|
|Samoa||Samoan (Polynesian) (official) 91.1%, Samoan/English 6.7%, English (official) 0.5%, other 0.2%, unspecified 1.6% (2006 est.)|
|Scotland||Scotland has three main languages, English, Scottish Gaelic, and Scots.|
|Seychelles||Seychellois Creole (official) 89.1%, English (official) 5.1%, French (official) 0.7%, other 3.8%, unspecified 1.4% (2010 est.)|
|Sierra Leone||English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)|
|Singapore||English (official) 48.3%, Mandarin (official) 29.9%, other Chinese dialects (includes Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka) 8.7%, Malay (official) 9.2%, Tamil (official) 2.5%, other 1.4%; note - data represent language most frequently spoken at home (2020 est.)|
|Solomon Islands||Melanesian pidgin (in much of the country is lingua franca), English (official but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population), 120 indigenous languages|
|South Africa||isiZulu (official) 25.3%, isiXhosa (official) 14.8%, Afrikaans (official) 12.2%, Sepedi (official) 10.1%, Setswana (official) 9.1%, English (official) 8.1%, Sesotho (official) 7.9%, Xitsonga (official) 3.6%, siSwati (official) 2.8%, Tshivenda (official) 2.5%, isiNdebele (official) 1.6%, other (includes Khoi, Nama, and San languages) 2%; note - data represent language spoken most often at home (2018 est.)|
|Sri Lanka||Sinhala (official and national language) 87%, Tamil (official and national language) 28.5%, English 23.8% (2012 est.); note: data represent main languages spoken by the population aged 10 years and older; shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census; English is commonly used in government and is referred to as the "link language" in the constitution|
|St Kitts and Nevis||English; Saint Kitts Creole|
|St Lucia||English; Antillean Creole|
|St Vincent and the Grenadines||English; Vincentian Creole|
|Tanzania||Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguja (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), many local languages; note - Kiswahili (Swahili) is the mother tongue of the Bantu people living in Zanzibar and nearby coastal Tanzania; although Kiswahili is Bantu in structure and origin, its vocabulary draws on a variety of sources including Arabic and English; it has become the lingua franca of central and eastern Africa; the first language of most people is one of the local languages|
|The Gambia||English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars|
|Tonga||Tongan and English 76.8%, Tongan, English, and other language 10.6%, Tongan only (official) 8.7%, English only (official) 0.7%, other 1.7%, none 2.2% (2016 est.)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||English (official), Trinidadian Creole English, Tobagonian Creole English, Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Trinidadian Creole French, Spanish, Chinese|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||English|
|Tuvalu||Tuvaluan (official), English (official), Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)|
|Uganda||English (official language, taught in schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages and the language used most often in the capital), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili (official), Arabic|
|Vanuatu||local languages (more than 100) 63.2%, Bislama (official; creole) 33.7%, English (official) 2%, French (official) 0.6%, other 0.5% (2009 est.)|
|Zambia||Bemba 33.4%, Nyanja 14.7%, Tonga 11.4%, Lozi 5.5%, Chewa 4.5%, Nsenga 2.9%, Tumbuka 2.5%, Lunda (North Western) 1.9%, Kaonde 1.8%, Lala 1.8%, Lamba 1.8%, English (official) 1.7%, Luvale 1.5%, Mambwe 1.3%, Namwanga 1.2%, Lenje 1.1%, Bisa 1%, other 9.7%, unspecified 0.2% (2010 est.); note: Zambia is said to have over 70 languages, although many of these may be considered dialects; all of Zambia's major languages are members of the Bantu family; Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects|