Everyone knows that English is the most widely spoken language in the UK, but it is far from the only language spoken there. According to the 2011 Census, there are over 4 million people living in the UK who do not speak English as their first, or primary, language. In fact, nearly 140,000 residents of the UK do not speak English at all.
So what does this mean for your business?
If you have the privilege of doing business internationally, you know that mastering business communications in multiple languages is not only courteous but lucrative. Although English is widely spoken in the UK, it's also accompanied by several other prominent languages. It's imperative that businesses take these languages into account when localizing content.
Other Popular Languages Spoken in the UK
In England and Wales, the most widely spoken language after English is Polish. Of the over 56.1 million residents of England and Wales, approximately 546,000 speak Polish, about the same number of people who speak Welsh.
After English, Welsh, and Polish, the next most widely spoken languages are of Indian and Pakistani origin, like Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi, which taken together account for about a million people. There are also about 141,000 Chinese speakers and other pockets of smaller languages. Who knew!
A New English
Interestingly, academics believe that the wide variety of languages spoken in the UK may start to change the way English is spoken in the region.
There have always been words traded between languages. For example, words like croissant from French, or pajamas from Hindi. But the high number of Polish speakers might mean that Polish has a particular influence on the language.
That being said, any number of languages can and will begin to influence English, particularly because the census data reveals that approximately 13% of the total population was born abroad. Over a million households have residents whose primary language is English. This will mean that the English they speak in the UK will continue to change, and in different ways than the English spoken in the U.S. will change.
The entire region has a rich cultural heritage, and the breadth of languages spoken there clearly reflects that fact. And as time continues to pass, those languages will continue to influence one another, as they always have.