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Chapter 3: Multiple Ethnicities

This chapter compares the proportion of people speaking a first language with the number of ethnic groups people said they belonged to.

The three combined ethnic groups, Pacific people, Asian and European, exhibited a similar pattern of language retention. People who reported one ethnicity were more likely to speak a first language than those with three or more ethnicities. This suggests that inter-marriage between ethnic groups is likely to make it difficult for people to retain their first language.

Pacific peoples

Each of the Pacific groups exhibited a declining rate of language retention with each additional ethnicity.

Among Pacific peoples, the Samoan group recorded the largest decline. Eight in every 10 Samoans with one ethnicity spoke their first language, compared with around one in 10 Samoans with three or more ethnicities.

The decline in language retention was less pronounced for the Cook Island Maori group. Twenty-seven percent of Cook Islanders with one ethnicity spoke their first language, compared with just 2 percent of those with three or more ethnicities (figure 7). The smaller decline in language retention is reflective of the low rate of language retention overall within the Cook Island Maori population.

Figure 7

Pacific Peoples Speaking a First Language
By number of affiliated ethnicities

Usually resident population, 2001

Asian

Within the Asian ethnic groups, the Chinese recorded the largest decline in language retention from one to three or more ethnicities. Seventy-seven percent of Chinese people with one affiliated ethnicity spoke a first language, compared with three percent with three or more affiliated ethnicities.

By comparison, the Khmer/Kampuchean/Cambodian group and Vietnamese group had relatively high proportions of people with three or more affiliated ethnicities who spoke a first language (39 percent and 37 percent, respectively), the highest of all groups examined in this report (figure 8).

Figure 8

Asians Speaking a First Language
By number of affiliated ethnicities
Usually resident population, 2001

European

For all European groups, there was a marked decline in the proportion speaking a first language among people with multiple ethnicities.

Among all those who reported only one ethnicity, Greeks and Croat/Croatians were the most likely to speak their first language (85 percent and 83 percent, respectively). Italians were the least likely to speak a first language (figure 10).

Fewer than one in every 10 people with three or more ethnicities from each European group were able to speak their first language. The Dutch/Netherlands group recorded the lowest proportion speaking a first language among those with three or more affiliated ethnicities (4 percent).

Figure 9

Europeans Speaking a First Language
By number of affiliated ethnicities
Usually resident population, 2001

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