Frequently Asked Questions

New Zealand's official languages

What are New Zealand’s official languages and when can they be used?

New Zealand has three ‘official’ languages: English; Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

English is the most widely spoken language in New Zealand. It is the language commonly used in the courts, parliament, in the education system and by the public sector.

Māori and New Zealand Sign languages have been formally designated as ‘official languages’ and have special status under the law. People have the right to speak in Maori or New Zealand Sign Language and they can be used in legal proceedings with interpreters. Māori is also taught in most schools and there are Māori immersion educational facilities.

Due to the growing numbers of migrants, many other languages are now spoken. The Commission has produced guidance on language policies in the workplace to ensure employers and employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

The Commission provides increasing amounts of information in all three languages, and other languages including Samoan, Tongan and Chinese.

More information

To find out more read the Commission’s Statement of Language Policy and visit: