Language and identity

Your native language is your life.

Language is a living, breathing organism which defines cultures. It expresses a relationship with the natural environment. It is a cultural artefact.

Multi-linguism gives us more ways to look at the world, to think and understand, it improves abstract thinking, attention spans and focus.

Of the 7,000 known languages in the world just 6% are spoken by 94% of the world’s people. At the other end of the spectrum there are 133 languages spoken by just 10 people or less.

The three dominant languages are:

Mandarin (845 million speakers)

Spanish (329 million speakers)

English (328 million speakers)

China is now the world’s largest English speaking country. The greatest threat to language is globalisation and an English speaking mania which is sweeping the globe because of its promise of success and employment. 

Australia has 245 distinct language groups, 212 of which are Indigenous languages.

When a language is lost it has a profound impact on people’s identity, cultural values and self-worth. Our history of colonisation has produced a graveyard of languages. 

In the colonising of Australia, the Aboriginal people and the Europeans used a hybrid dialogue to communicate. From the beginning of the 20th century in some remote communities, this pidgin dialect became the mother tongue and a creole (Kriol) language which is an Aboriginal dialect of English, is now spoken by Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory.


Source: Lewis M (eds) (2015) Ethnologue:languages of the world, Dallas, SIL International.