Polish rules for now, but watch out for Bulgarian and Romanian

Polish shop, Lea Bridge Road E10

Polish shop, Lea Bridge Road E10 (Photo credit: sludgegulper)

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.



4 thoughts on “Polish rules for now, but watch out for Bulgarian and Romanian

  1. would love to say thanks in Polish (which i know how to say but not how to write & the colloquial is not in translate!) this is a lovely piece. I am slowly learning a bit of Polish as we have a delightful Polish lady who works for us in the summer & she is very patient with me & my forgetful brain! Now I should maybe pay better attention to the Romanian you are teaching ….

    • Hello, an interesting comment, thanks for that. I knew that there was quite a large Polish community in Ireland, but didn’t realise it would be the top migrant community in the UK. One of my cousins has a Polish girlfriend, she is lovely, and when I did that language course in Portugal I met another Polish woman whom I keep in touch with. They seem really nice people, quite gentle in a way. I have been to a Polish restaurant in Sydney and near where I used to live there was a Polish club and a Polish deli (since closed). It’s always nice to meet people from other countries and cultures. But you are right, Polish does seem a difficult language!

  2. Well done for some accurate comments. I live with my Polish partner, Ewa, in London and I’m very impressed with her and the Polish community who work so hard and act so nice in London’s mad inner city. However, where England succeeds with multiculturalism, which you support, there is no such thing in Poland. When I was there recently, it was a very traditional, catholic, Polish monoculture. But as Poland becomes the success story of the European Union, I hope it will embrace other cultures to offer the diversity that my great city of London offers.

    • Hello, you make some interesting points. I guess multiculturism comes only with immigration, and those places that tend to lure people from all over the world become cultural melting pots, so to speak. I find multicultural places interesting, but I am not sure that I would want every place in the world to become like that. I quite like it when places manage to keep their cultural identities and traditions. Call them monocultures if you will. Perhaps monocultural places are interesting to visit for a short while (for outsiders who who want a glimpse of a different culture) but perhaps more boring if you happen to live there permanently. It depends on how well you fit in in that culture, or if you want to escape it because you find it too restrictive or too stifling. As for Poland, I have not been there unfortunately. But how many immigrant communities does Poland have? Are there enough people from other cultures there for it to embrace? Or did you feel like a solitary unembraced outsider? If I went to Poland I would want to find it very Polish.

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