There were interesting stories in the newspapers this week about language trends in Britain as revealed in the census undertaken in 2011. It turns out that, after English and Welsh, the language that is most widely spoken (or has the most number of native speakers) is Polish. Its 546,000 speakers make up 1 per cent of the UK population. This came as quite a surprise to me but since I have visited Britain only once in the past 20-odd years (in 2011) I am not really in a position to have picked up on its social trends.
I was pleased to see that all My Five Romances were reasonably high on the list: French had 147,000, Portuguese 133,000, Spanish 120,000, Italian 92,000 and Romanian 68,000.
However, it is possible that Romanian might shoot up the rankings, for the another big story of the week is that some Tory ministers and MPs in the British government fear there will soon be an immigration Armageddon, as one columnist put it, because soon Bulgarians and Romanians will be allowed to live and work in the UK without restriction. All hell will break loose! The ministers proposed producing adverts that would highlight England’s ugliness and discourage Romanians and Bulgarians from arriving. Now witty would-be advertising types are suggesting ideas for the campaign, and Romanians have come up with their own counter-campaigns. It’s tit for tat in the satirical stakes. I can’t wait to see all the videos on Youtube.
(It strikes me as a bit rich for MPs in the country that colonised half the world and set up the British Empire to suggest that there should curbs on immigration, but that’s another story).
The predominance of Polish in the UK made me wonder what were the “second languages” not just of other countries but of other cities. I should imagine that Spanish would easily be the second language of the United States, and of all the Californian cities, but perhaps not of Boston and New York. What are the second languages of Brazil and France, or of Buenos Aires, Bucharest, Rome and Lisbon?
And can you guess what, after English, are the languages most spoken in Australia?
Here is the answer from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
In 2011, 81% of Australians aged 5 years and over, spoke only English at home while 2% didn’t speak English at all. The most common languages spoken at home (other than English) were Mandarin (1.7%), Italian (1.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese (1.3%) and Greek (1.3%).
Anyway, if the Romanians are not welcome in Britain perhaps they could come to Australia because, when I last looked, there is not even one Romanian restaurant in Sydney. I haven’t scouted around for a Bulgarian one, but will do so. Anyway, I think it is great that languages are cropping up all over the place. Who wants to live in a monocultural country? Long live multiculturalism, I say.
- Romanians, Bulgarians answer UK immigration fears (miamiherald.com)
- Mayor: Put limit on number of Bulgarians and Romanians or rough sleeping will rise (standard.co.uk)
- Poles vault: Polish leaps up language list to become second most common in England (mirror.co.uk)
- We’re not scroungers, say Romanians (independent.ie)
- Why Poles love coming to Britain (telegraph.co.uk)