Experience Student Life


Experience Student Life


Muth-ethnic students at the national flags board

English, in various dialects, is the most widely spoken language of the United Kingdom, however there are a number of regional languages also spoken.

There are 14 indigenous languages used across the British Isles: 5 Celtic, 3 Germanic, 3 Romance, and 3 sign languages. There are also many immigrant languages spoken in the British Isles, mainly within inner city areas; these languages are mainly from South Asia and Eastern Europe.

Official native languages

English is spoken across the UK, but it is not the only native official language. You may also occasionally hear:

  • Welsh in Wales 
  • Gaelic and Scots in Scotland
  • Irish and Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland
  • Cornish in Cornwall, England

These other languages developed very differently to English and share few common words. You will hear them most commonly in rural areas, but many young people are now taught these languages at school as a second language and they are seeing a revival. However, wherever you go in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales you will find that English is the main language and that people speak English fluently.

International languages

As well as these native languages, you will hear lots of other languages in the UK too. In London alone it is estimated that you can hear over 300 languages! As well as immigrant communities, the UK attracts millions of students, tourists and business visitors from around the world each year. For as long as it has existed, the United Kingdom has been a hub of immigration in Europe. One of the main reasons is that its colonial past has led to people coming to England, particularly from regions of India and Pakistan.

The biggest immigrant language is Polish, with over 546,000 speakers. This is largely due to the opening of borders to Poland when the country joined the European Union in 2004. Up until Brexit, the United Kingdom was very open to immigrants and became a land of opportunity for Europeans, which led to an influx of other languages spoken in the country.

The next four most-spoken immigrant languages come from India and Pakistan. They are Punjabi (273,231), Urdu (268,680), Bengali (221,403) and Gujarati (213,094). As mentioned, this is the legacy of England’s presence in India during the 19th and 20th centuries.

After that, the languages spoken are Arabic (159,290), French (147,099), Chinese languages (141,052), Portuguese (133,453) and Spanish (120,222). There are also countless other languages spoken in pockets throughout the United Kingdom, with most clustered around major metropolitan areas like London.

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