Languages of the United Kingdom


The predominant language that will come to the mind of people in a discussion about the languages of the UK (United Kingdom) will definitely be English. Out of the over 66 million residents of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; the stats show that over 98% of them speak the Queen’s language.

This country is rated as the joint third most likely country in Europe unlikely to speak a foreign language. Only 31% of the population as of this day speaks a second language in the UK. The British royal family speaks French and German. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William are fluent in both French and German.

Languages of the United Kingdom | Languages of the UK | Zing Languages

Despite all the odds, other indigenous languages of the UK are still thriving and it shall be our focus as you read through this article. The location of the country and its long association with colonialism has opened up the UK to a number of languages and dialects that have shaped the language culture of the country.

Let us take a look at some of the languages of the UK that are spoken today.


Available stats show that the population that speaks English in the UK is 58 million people. There is no law existing that makes it English the official language but it is the de-facto language because it is understood by the majority and it is used in official quarters in the UK.

This language is most strongly represented in England. On getting to Northern Scotland and Wales; you are going to come across the minority languages of the UK.

The Indigenous Languages of the UK

English was not the predominant language of the UK from its inception. The French language was the lord over all other languages after the Norman Invasion of 1066, and English was relegated to the background.

The French and Germanic languages had a field day during this point in time; however, before their arrival, there are records that some languages actually were in existence. We shall take a look at these indigenous languages of the UK one after the other:

Scots Language

After the English language, the most popular language in the UK is Scots. This language is spoken in Scotland and it is strongly influenced by the English language. It is spoken by over 1.5 million people and is often referred to as a dialect of English instead of a language on its own. The Scots language is strongly retrained because it contributes to the national identity of Scottish citizens.

Welsh language

Welsh is the second most popular indigenous language of the UK after Scots and it is spoken by over 560,000 people. This is the only language in the UK that has a legal status.  A series of laws made over the last three decades has conferred Welsh equal status with the English language.

All public service signs are in both English and Welsh. This language is facing the serious challenge of going into extinction because only 19% of the population speaks the language. However, it is believed that the laws in favor of the language will stem the tide in its favor.

Languages of UK - Welsh language with Wales flag | Zing Languages
Flag of Wales: The WELSH LANGUAGE – CYMRAEG is Europe’s oldest living language. It is a Celtic language and dates back to the 6th Century and just before the Romans left Britain. WELSH comes from the language spoken by the ancient Britons, called “Brythonic”.

Other Indigenous Languages

There is some other minor indigenous language that is spoken in the UK today. There is the Angloromani dialect which has over 90,000 speakers.  Then the Scottish Gaelic dialect has an estimated 87,000 speakers. The Shelta dialect has an estimated 16,700 native speakers. There is Irish language that has 5,730 Irish speakers. There are about 600 people who are proud speakers of the Cornish dialect.

Top 10 Immigrant Languages of the UK

When we are talking about languages that are been spoken in the UK, mention must be made of the immigrant languages that are spoken there as of today. The colonial record of the UK opened the door to several immigrants who came to the UK, particularly from India and Pakistan. This accounts for the number of immigrant languages that are spoken in the UK today.

The Polish Language

Polish is the biggest immigrant language in the UK. There are more than 546,000 speakers of the language in the UK. When Poland joined the EU in the year 2004, the UK borders were opened to her citizens and this accounted for a large number of citizens who migrated to the country with their language. The trend slightly changed with the coming on of Bret exit.

The next set of indigenous languages that are pronounced in the UK today are from the Indian and Pakistani axis. This is so due to the presence of England in India during the 19th and 20th centuries. The languages that are connected to this region are listed (Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati) in the table with the estimated number of speakers.

Immigrant LanguageEstimated Number of Speakers
Chinese Languages141,052

The Influence of The Immigrant Languages

Like how globalisation influenced the growth of the English language, the immigrant languages have a way of influencing the English that is spoken in England. Polish for instance is seen to have an overbearing influence on the English spoken in the UK.

The influence of these foreign languages will continue to have a pronounced impact on spoken English in the UK because of the stats that are in support the fact that 13% of UK citizens are born out of the UK. There are over a million households that do have residents whose primary language is English; this can be used to safely predict that the English that they speak in the UK will continue to change over time.


There is more to the language spoken in the UK than English contrary to the views of several people out there. The rich cultural heritage of the UK is a clear reflection of the languages that are spoken in the United Kingdom today. The influence of these languages over each other will continue to wax stronger than what we have today. A similar trend can be observed in the United States of America, a place of a diverse cultures of several world nations. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the top 5 Languages of the United Kingdom, other than English, are:

  • Polish
  • Punjabi
  • Urdu
  • Bengali
  • Gujarati

There are over 300 Languages of the United Kingdom are spoken by the UK people as per the UK Ethnologue database. However, English is by far the most widely spoken language, and many of the other languages spoken in the UK are spoken by small or concentrated communities.

The second most common Language in the United Kingdom, after English, is Polish. The Polish community in the UK has grown significantly in recent years, and Polish is now spoken by over half a million people in the country. However, it is worth noting that there are several other languages, such as Punjabi, Urdu, and Bengali, that are also spoken by large numbers of people in the UK, and the rankings may vary depending on the source and methodology used to measure language use.