Arabic second-most common Australian tongue

One in eight multilingual children use Arabic at home

April 15, 2011

Sydney: Arabic is the most commonly spoken language after English by young people in Australia, a study has revealed, with about one in eight multilingual children using it in the home.

The Australia Early Development Index, a government-backed study of more than 260,000 children in their first year of school, found that 18 per cent spoke a language other than English.

Despite no Arabic nation making the top 15 countries of birth for Australia's children, some 5,565 spoke the language at home, 11.8 per cent of all multilingual children.

Vietnamese was the second-most prevalent, at 8.4 per cent, followed by Greek, Chinese dialects and Hindi, each spoken by less than 5.0 per cent.

England, New Zealand, India and the United States were the top countries of birth after Australia, followed by the Philippines, China, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka.

"The Australian population is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the world and this is represented in the children surveyed for the AEDI," the study said.

Aboriginal children made up 4.8 per cent of the student population and one-fifth of them speak a native language in the home - most commonly a creole mixing an indigenous dialect with English.

Fewer than 100 children spoke any single local tongue, the study found.