As an immigration hub in Europe, there are many languages spoken in the UK. People worldwide live in the United Kingdom, making it a melting pot of cultures, languages, dialects, and accents.
Within this rich linguistic tapestry, there are also heritage language learners. They play an integral role in preserving and nurturing their ancestral languages in the multicultural fabric of the United Kingdom.
For companies and producers targeting people in the United Kingdom, it is important to invest in localisation of audio-visual materials to effectively communicate their message to the intended audience.
How Many Languages are Spoken in the UK?
Do you know that some of the most spoken languages in the UK other than English are Polish, Punjabi, and Urdu?
The British Council says more than 300 languages are spoken in London alone! And according to the Office of National Statistics, 4.1 million of the population in the UK were fluent in English, but it was not their primary language.
Top Languages Spoken in The United Kingdom
There are a number of languages spoken in the UK other than English. The country’s colonial past opened the door to immigrants from around the world.
Here is the list of the top 10 languages in the UK.
With over 546,174 speakers, Polish is one of the most spoken languages in the UK after English.
A large concentration of Polish people lives in West London. Outside London, large communities of Polish speakers can also be found in Slough, Southampton, Birmingham, and Leeds.
Listen to Julia, one of our best Polish Voice-Over artists giving tips about Polish Voice Over session recordings.
Because of India’s colonial past, the UK is home to the largest Punjabi community. With more than 273,000 speakers, Punjabi is the most common Indian language in the UK.
A large number of Punjabi speakers today live in the South Hall area of Greater London. This area has even earned the nickname “Little Punjab” for this reason.
Approximately 0.5% of the population in the United Kingdom speaks Urdu, with over 269,000 speakers! It is the second-largest Indian language spoken in the UK.
Large concentrations of Urdu speakers can be found in parts of London and other areas like Scotland, West Midlands, Manchester (check out what the Manchester Accent sounds like), Leeds, and Bradford.
Around 0.4% of the population of the UK speaks Bengali. The country has a thriving Bengali community with as many as 221,000 speakers.
London is home to approximately 71,000 Bengali speakers. The three boroughs where the most Bengali native speakers can be found are Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Camden.
Gujarati is also one of the most spoken languages in England due to the presence of Britain’s colony in India during the 19th and 20th centuries. Currently, there are over 213,094 Gujarati speakers in the country.
Large, vibrant Gujarati communities can be found today in metropolitan areas such as Greater London, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and West and East Midlands.
The United Kingdom is home to a large number of British Arabs from countries like the Gulf States, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, Morocco, and Egypt.
There are over 159,290 Arabic speakers in the UK. A majority of them reside in the Greater London area.
Smaller numbers of Arabic speakers can also be found in other geographical locations such as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester.
French is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the UK, but it is also the most learned foreign language by Britons.
Over 147,099 French speakers currently live in the UK. Most of them can be found in Greater London in the boroughs of Fulham, Hammersmith, Westminster, Kensington, and Chelsea. A smaller concentration can also be found in South East England.
Listen to Philippe, one of our experienced French Voice-Over artists giving tips about French Voice Over session recordings.
Chinese language speakers live in almost all major cities in the UK such as Greater London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool, and Edinburgh.
Meet Weiliang, one of our most experienced Chinese Voice Over Artists.
Portuguese is among the top languages spoken in the UK with over 133,453 speakers.
The largest concentration of Portuguese speakers in the UK is in London. Vauxhall in Lambeth is a long-standing hub for the community. Norfolk has the largest concentration of Portuguese-speaking people outside of London.
Spanish rounds off the list of the most spoken languages in England with over 120,222 speakers.
The largest number of Spanish-speaking residents in the country live in West London in areas such as Chelsea, Regent’s Park, and Kensington. Smaller concentrations can also be found in Scotland and Wales.
Role of the Heritage Language Learners
The modern United Kingdom owes much of its cultural and linguistic diversity to heritage language learners. Thanks to them, there are so many languages spoken in the UK daily.
A heritage language learner learns or acquires a language tied to their cultural or familial heritage. They often have a personal or historical connection to the language and seek to maintain or develop proficiency in it.
As the United Kingdom is a significant immigration hub, many citizens fluently speak their parents’ original language. They have a substantial role in the multiculturalism and multilingualism that characterizes the UK.
UK’s Language Learning Gap
While many different languages are spoken in the UK, native Brits don’t necessarily speak multiple languages.
When it comes to learning a language, we are lagging far behind in the UK. Aside from the speakers of UK minority languages, such as Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, etc., and Brits who have immigrated to the UK or whose families immigrated to the UK, we tend to be monoglots.
So why are we so bad at learning languages?
With the English language enjoying a prominent global position, often being used as a Lingua Franca, the people of the UK grow up without feeling a real need to learn another language. Learning another language might seem exciting or impressive, but rarely crucial.
In contrast, learning a language seemed essential in Spain, for instance. Parents would send their children to Spanish-English bilingual schools and, where they could afford it, to additional private classes because they were worried their children wouldn’t have good prospects without a high level of English, even though Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide.
Learning languages can be challenging and frustrating (check the most useful languages to learn for translators). It takes a lot of time, effort, and commitment.
Many British people lose motivation when they face difficulties because they don’t feel a strong need to learn another language. Plus, most Brits only speak one language, so we only have a few people around us who can show us that learning a language is possible or share the learning journey.
But things are changing. With the help of technology, more accessible travel, and improvements in education, we believe we’ll see significant progress in language learning in the next generation and more languages spoken in the UK.
The UK is a culturally and linguistically diverse country and reaching audiences in the country requires a strategic localisation effort.
GoLocalise can help you reach audiences in the UK in their primary language. Our voice-over services, subtitling, and translation services in over 300 languages can ensure that your marketing message is well received by your target audience.
Regardless of the audience you are targeting, our team is capable of delivering audio-visual localisation services for all the languages listed above.