Mapping the languages spoken in Victoria

Data maps identifying the top languages spoken in Victoria and the level of English proficiency across genders, age brackets and levels of education.

Language maps of multicultural Victoria

New data maps are available that summarise English proficiency in different culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, and the top languages spoken at home in Victoria.

There is one map for metropolitan Melbourne and one map for Regional Victoria. 

These maps provide data to help us understand not just which languages are spoken across Victoria, but which languages correlate with low English proficiency. Some people may speak a language other than English at home but still have a high level of English proficiency, while others may have low English proficiency. It is the latter group who are in particular need of targeted communication and engagement, including translation of key information. 

What do the maps include?

The maps were created by the Migration Council of Australia (MCA) and use census and settlement data to: 

  • Provide an overview of the top languages spoken at home by location
  • Identify the top languages whose speakers self-report as having low English proficiency
  • Identify differences in English proficiency across genders
  • Identify differences in English proficiency across age brackets
  • Identify differences in English proficiency according to level of education

Key trends identified by the data

Understanding the level of English proficiency among different CALD communities is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as migrants and refugees with low English proficiency are more likely to experience vaccine hesitancy and be susceptible to misconceptions and misinformation*. This forms part of a broader trend in which low English proficiency affects health literacy and access to adequate healthcare including preventative health services.

Here's a summary of the key trends captured in each report:  

Metropolitan Melbourne

  • Some languages have low numbers of speakers and are therefore less likely to be identified as a top language spoken. However, a large portion of the community may have low English proficiency and therefore a need for targeted communication in-language.
  • In languages where there is a differential among the numbers of male and female speakers of a language, European, East Asian, Central Asian, and Southeast Asian languages tend to have more female speakers, while there are generally more male speakers among African, South Asian, and Middle Eastern languages. 
  • Many of the languages identified as having speakers with low English proficiency also have speakers with lower levels of education. This impacts upon the health literacy of members of those communities, as well as the types of communications strategies that will be appropriate.

Explore the metropolitan Melbourne maps

Regional Victoria 

  • A large number of different language communities who report low English proficiency can be found in Geelong, followed by Shepparton and North West.
  • Karen, Dari and Hazaraghi have the highest percentage of speakers with low English proficiency. These languages are spoken in countries reflecting the last decade’s humanitarian intake, noting speakers of these languages may not have lived in Australia for a long time.
  • Following the trend of metropolitan Melbourne, many of the languages reporting low English proficiency also have speakers with lower levels of education.
  • Women tend to have lower English proficiency than men, except among Hazaraghi, Korean, Cantonese, Chinese (nfd) and Tongan speakers. There is a minimal difference between men and women aged from 10 to 69 years but after the age of 70 discrepancies start to show, with more women reporting low English proficiency than men.

Explore the Regional Victoria maps

*NCOSS (2021). Issues, barriers and perceptions about the COVID-19 Vaccine among culturally and linguistically diverse communities in NSW.