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Maltese language maintenance in Australia (based on the 1996 Census)

Author: Sandra Kipp

First Generation

Languge shift in the first generation is calculated as the percentage of persons born in Malta who now speak only English at home. Figure I indicates that Maltese is best maintained in Victoria and NSW, the states where it is most concentrated, and that it is slightly better maintained in Victoria than it is in NSW. The actual figures are 31.3% for Victoria, 36.7% for NSW and 36.5% for Australia.

To place these figures into some kind of context, the language with the lowest shift rate in the first generation in Australia is Macedonian (3% nationally, and 2.6% in Victoria), and the language with the highest shift rate is Dutch (61.9% nationally and 62.1% in Victoria). Languages with a similar shift rate to Maltese are French (37.2% nationally) and Hungarian (31.8% nationally). Languages other than Macedonian with national shift rates of less than 10% include Chilean Spanish, Greek, Chinese from Hong Kong, Arabic from Lebanon, Chinese from the PRC, Chinese from Taiwan, and Turkish. Between 10% and 20% are Italian, Japanese, Korean and Polish. Spanish from Spain has a shift rate of 22.4%. Apart from Dutch, the only language with a national shift rate higher than that of Maltese is German (from Germany and Austria), with 48.2% and 48.3% respectively. Maltese must then be seen as a high shift language in the first generation.

Source: Maltese Background Youth - Editors Cauchi M, Borland H, Adams R, 1999, [Europe Australia Institute], p 9


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