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Languages Spoken in the UK – Top 5

While it may be surprising, the UK has no official language. This is primarily due to the fact that the UK is made up of 4 different countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, what is probably unsurprising is that over 98% of residents speak English. We have taken a look at the main languages spoken in the UK below.


Languages Spoken in the UK

English – 58 million speakers

Over 98% of the UK population speak English, that equates to over 58 million speakers. While English may not be the ‘official’ language by law in the UK, it is considered the de-facto official language.

Covent Garden - London Holborn

Spoken in all four countries of the UK, English is predominately spoken in England (un-surprisingly). It is also used in all official capacities in each country due to its overwhelming use across the UK.

Scots – 1.5 million speakers

The second most of all languages spoken in the UK is Scots. Whilst this can be considered a regional dialect of English, it is classed as a separate language in the national census.

Scots is spoken predominantly in northern and regional areas Scotland. It is most commonly learnt as a second language after English, but is a key part of the Scottish identity.

Welsh – 560,000 speakers

Welsh is the third most spoken language in the UK and is also the only language with a legal status. Laws have been passed over recent decades which require all official documentation and public services must use Welsh and English. This reaches as far as road signs in Wales which display both languages.

Even with this legal requirement, only 19% of the population of Wales actually speak Welsh fluently compared to 99% who speak English. However, the legislation passed means that Welsh will remain in common use across the country for many years to come.

Polish – 540,000 speakers

Due to the increased immigration to the UK over the last 20 years, European languages have become more prevalent across the country. Polish is the most widely spoken of European languages spoken in the UK with over 500,000 speakers.

Following Brexit in 2016 the number of European speakers, Polish included, has begun to level off. This, however, has not stopped the spread of the language amongst communities thanks to the integration of societies in high immigration areas of the country.

Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati – c.250,000 speakers each

Following the influence of the UK in India towards the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, a vast amount of immigration took place from countries such as India and Pakistan. This immigration in-turn increased the use of these Western Asian languages in the UK.

While these languages are not as prevalent as others, the communities within which they are spoken are dotted around the country and have deep family connections. Whilst the younger generations are predominately native English speakers, their use of traditional languages at home is still very much commonplace.

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Other Languages Spoken in the UK

Due to the fact the UK is such a sought after location for immigration, there are many other languages spoken. Languages such as Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish are common in large cities such as London, Manchester and Brighton. While they are not as prevalent as others mentioned, there are communities for different countries which can be found in major towns and cities across the UK.

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