I think it’s time I (and you) learnt some Polish

This chart I created shows you the main spoken languages in England and Wales.

English (and Welsh), Polish and Punjabi

English (and Welsh), Polish and Punjabi

According to the 2011 census, English (and Welsh) — 92% — is still the dominant language in England and Wales, followed by Polish (1%).

The top 10 reported languages were English, followed by Polish, Panjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese, which were the 27th and 40th most commonly-used languages) and Portuguese. According to the census, Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese) ranked number 9.

See the data from the Office for National Statistics,

Language distribution in England and Wales, 2011 (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Language distribution in England and Wales, 2011 (Source: Office for National Statistics)

As a linguist, I’m curious of this data regarding the Chinese language. What does Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese) really cover? Shanghainese, Min and Taiwanese, Hakka, Fuzhou……? How were various Chinese languages (regional languages or dialects) defined? Most modern Chinese speak Mandarin, and their functional language will be Mandarin (though they may are born speaking regional language/dialect.) Which option would the Chinese people have chosen? Mandarin or their regional languages/dialects? I reason that the percentage of the population who speaks Mandarin would be higher, if you included those who also speak their regional language/dialects.

To learn Polish, please pop over to the BBC for some quick tips. Good luck!

Click the image below to learn Polish.

Surviving Polish

Polish or dummies

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20 thoughts on “I think it’s time I (and you) learnt some Polish

  1. misswhiplash

    Actually Polish is easier to read than Russian as some words look English but I could not say tha words. I have enough trouble with Bulgarian.

    Reply
  2. Hazel Bateman

    I understand that 12% of the population of Southampton is Polish. When paying for goods by card last year, it came up as first choice on the ‘choose language’ option on the card machine. When I was at drama college 40 years ago, there were quite a few Poles – children of those who had fought on our side during the war.

    Reply
  3. Ruby

    I wonder what is the proportion of British people whose first language is Welsh rather than English. I suspect that it could be lower than Polish – though, of course, quite a high proportion in the areas where it is spoken.

    A balancing statistic would be how many British people live abroad and don’t speak the local language. And I’ll repeat the point that was made on “8 out of 10 cats” last night for “Daily Mail readers” who are horrified at the statistics: by definition, England’s second language is going to be a foreign language!

    Reply
    1. Janet Williams Post author

      The BBC has an analysis here.

      “The number of Welsh speakers overall has fallen from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000 last year, despite an increase in the size of the population. This represents a two percentage point drop – from 21% to 19% – in the proportion of Welsh speakers.”

      Reply
      1. Ruby

        so , if I’ve done the counting and maths (sorry, arithmetic) correctly, 19% of the population of Wales is 0.6% of the population of the UK – so less than Polish speakers. And the BBC article appears to be the number who can speak Welsh, not necessarily those for whom Welsh is their first language.

      2. Janet Williams Post author

        I’m not sure how people reported their language on the survey, and how reliable the data is. Do people report the language that they are emotionally attached to (such as Cantonese, Taiwanese, Welsh, Gaelic) — though they may not speak it well? Do they choose the functional language (mostly English) though they speak Cantonese, Taiwanese, Welsh, Gaelic as their mother tongue at home?

      3. Ruby

        Good point – and I suppose it is true of all surveys: People answer how they interpret the question, which isn’t necessarily what the survey intender intended. I suppose that is why some surveys seem to ask the same question several times in slightly different ways

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