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Languages for Expats in Australia

Submitted: August 2013

English is the language spoken in more than 80% of households in Australia and is the official language in the country. It is therefore wise to gain basic English language skills prior to arriving in Australia.

Individuals applying for student or certain employment visas must be able to demonstrate that they possess a sufficient knowledge of the English language. They will have to successfully pass an English language test with institutions recognised by the Australian Authorities. Further information can be found here: https://www.immi.gov.au/students/english-requirements.htm

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (https://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/help-with-english/amep/) provides free English language courses as part of its Adult Migrant English Program. The service is offered to eligible migrants and a total of 500 hours of tuition are made available to individuals who either have a family or skilled visa. It is also available to people arriving on a humanitarian visa with additional hours available for some individuals.

Individuals wishing to enhance their English language knowledge and gain qualifications recognised by many businesses can choose to study via Navitas English (https://navitasenglish.com). It is one of Australia's largest providers of English language tuition to students, immigrants and refugees and offers general English courses, suitable for an expat's daily living requirements. There are also courses concentrating on academic English for students and settlement English for new migrants and refugees. Test centres can be found throughout Australia and test results are recognised by the Immigration Department.

Another option is to attend an English language school in Australia. Lessons are usually structured not only in a classroom setting but also encompass practical elements such as a variety of social events that include opportunities to talk to native speakers. There are a vast number of schools throughout the country and the International Association of Language Centres (https://www.ialc.org/database/australia-language-schools.asp) provides a comprehensive list on its website.

The Australian Department of Immigration offers interpreting and translation services in over 160 languages. Interpreting services are free of charge for private medical practitioners, local authorities and non-profit organisations. Translation of official documents such as driving licenses, birth certificates and the like is also free of charge. Documents required for visa applications are excluded from the free service. Further information is provided on this website: https://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/91tis.htm

While an understanding of English as spoken in the UK or the USA is sufficient to live and work in Australia, expats should not underestimate the difference between these varieties and Australian English. Spelling tends to follow British English as opposed to American English. An individual not familiar with the usage of the language in Australia might at first struggle to fully understand a conversation between locals. Although there are no regional accents to try to comprehend, Aussie English contains many expressions and words that could very well mean the opposite or something completely different to what an expat might think. An explanation of the meaning of certain words and phrases can be found here: https://www.aussie-info.com/identity/language/.

With this in mind, even expats originating from English speaking countries or those with a good understanding of the language are strongly advised to learn about Australian idioms before arriving in the country.

 

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