POLISH is now the main language spoken in England and Wales after English and Welsh, according to 2011 census data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
The language-speaking figures recorded for the first time from a survey of 56.1 million residents of England and Wales show 546,000 speak Polish. It is now the second main language in England. There are still slightly more Welsh speakers in Wales at 562,000.
The next biggest main languages are the south Asian languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati, followed by Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese. The statisticians said they recorded over 100 different languages and 49 main languages with more than 15,000 users. English was the biggest of that group and Swedish the smallest.
Chinese people alone listed 67 different languages or dialects, although a minority of those were different spellings of the same language. All but three of the London boroughs, excluding the City, Richmond and Havering, have residents speaking more than 100 main languages, the ONS said. Hillingdon is the most linguistically diverse, with 107 languages listed, followed by Newham, with 103.
Some of the languages are in a tiny minority. For example, there was only one person in Barnet who said they spoke Caribbean creole and one person in Bexley.
Fifty-eight people speak Scottish Gaelic, 33 speak Manx Gaelic and 629 speak Romany.
Ealing in west London is the nation’s hotspot for Polish speaking, the town of Slough for Punjabi/Urdu, the city of Leicester for Gujarati, Kensington in central London for French and Manchester for Cantonese and Mandarin.
One million households have no residents with English as a main language, although most had some proficiency in English, the ONS said.
Only 138,000 people could not speak English at all.
“The West Midlands is the region with the lowest percentage of people that can speak English very well or well at 72 per cent,” said Roma Chappell, census director. It was the region that also had the highest number of people who can’t speak English at all.
The latest figures from the 2011 census also revealed how people in England and Wales get to work. The university cities of Cambridge and Oxford were the cycling capitals with 18 per cent and 10 per cent of their populations commuting on two wheels but London had the most cyclists, with the number more than doubling from 77,000 in 2001 to 161,000 in 2011.
Half of London residents travel using public transport but two per cent now use bikes and nine per cent of the people of Hackney in east London cycle to work. — The Guardian, London