Languages of Tokelau

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Languages of Tokelau
Official languages Tokelauan, English
Main languages Tokelauan (94.1%)
Indigenous languages Tokelauan
Minority languages English (59.2%), Samoan (42.0%), Tuvaluan (11.7%), Kiribati (2.7%)
Languages spoken by Tokelau residents, 2011

Tokelau has two official languages: Tokelauan and English. Over 90% of the population speaks Tokelauan, and just under 60% speak English. Also, 45.8% of the population speak Samoan, and small percentages of the population speak Tuvaluan and Kiribati.

Change over time

Since 2006, there has been growth in the proportion of the Tokelau population who can speak languages other than the country's native tongue. In contrast, the proportion of the total population able to speak Tokelauan has dropped, from 96.1% (in 2006) to 94.1% (in 2011).

The biggest difference since 2006 in languages spoken is the proportion of the population able to carry out a conversation in Tuvaluan, up from 7.2% (in 2006) to 11.7% (in 2011).


In Tokelau, approximately two-thirds (67.6%) of the population were able to speak two or more languages. Also, a large proportion of the population (40.7%) could converse in three or more languages.

The most-common number of languages spoken on Atafu and Fakaofo atolls was three languages. Just over one-third (34.6%) of Atafu residents spoke three languages, compared with 33.3% on Fakaofo and 24.6% on Nukunonu. The most-common number of languages spoken on Nukunonu was one language. Almost half (43.9%) of Nukunonu residents spoke only one language.

People in the younger age groups were more likely to speak only one or two languages. Over half (57.2%) of 0- to 9-year-olds spoke one language; 45.3% of 10- to 19-year-olds spoke two languages. We can note that 4.3% of the Tokelau population had no language (i.e. they were too young to talk) – 87.8% of these people were aged 0 to 9 years.

In contrast, the majority of 30- to 59-year-olds (62.7%) spoke three or more languages.

This article contains content derived from the 2011 Tokelau Census, produced by Statistics New Zealand, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License. See [1] for the full citation.