What languages ​​are spoken in the UK? (It’s more than English)

If one goes to the UK – what language can one expect people to speak? The easy answer is of course English – and naturally everyone there speaks English. But there are actually many languages ​​in the British Isles. For the purposes of this article, we will include the British Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands – even though they are technically not part of the UK.

Britain is complicated – made even more complicated by the number of territories it still controls around the world. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries in a union, while Great Britain is the name of the island – it’s a bit complicated with this old country.

Languages ​​In Scotland

Scottish Gaelic:

English has always been the mother tongue of England and much of Scotland. While all Scots today speak English, some still Scottish Gaelic. It is a Celtic language mainly spoken in the far northwest of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides (the highest percentage is in the Outer Hebrides). He is from what is called the Gaels of Scotland.

Where: In the Gaels of Scotland

Scottish Gaelic belongs to the same family as Irish and Manx and developed from Old Irish. Today it is spoken by around 57,000 people in Scotland – or around 1.1% of the population over the age of three.

  • Speakers: about 57,000
  • Percent: About 1.1% of Scotland’s population


Scottish is also called Lowland Scots or Broad Scots. It is variously thought of as a separate language or dialect of English. Many would consider it to be a very broad Scottish dialect of English with a number of Scottish words – like bonny, loch, burn etc.

  • Continued : It sits at the end of a linguistic continuum and is variously considered an English language or dialect

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Wales – Welsh

Welsh is spoken by a significant proportion of the population of Wales and is a Brittonic language of the Celtic language family. Between 19% and 30% of the Welsh population can communicate in Wales and it can be found on all government writings and even on all road signs.

  • Speakers: Between 19% and 30% of the population
  • Classification: Celtic

In Wales, the Welsh language is an official language along with English. It is considered the fastest growing of the Celtic languages ​​in terms of active speakers and is not considered an endangered language.

The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands are made up of the two countries (or Crown dependencies) of Jersey and Guernsey and they too have their own languages. The Channel Islands were historically part of the French province of Normandy, but have been the possession of the English crown for 1,000 years. The islands have their unique varieties of French.

Jersey – On Jersey:

The Jersey language (also called Jèrriais or Jersey French) is the traditional language of the people of Jersey. It is a form of Norman French and its closest relatives are other Norman languages ​​- such as Guernsey, spoken in neighboring Guernsey.

Over the last century the language declined as English took over, today there are very few people who speak it as a native language and the pool of speakers is shrinking every year.

  • Native speakers : About 2,000

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Guernsey – On Guernsey:

Guernésiais shares a similar story with his neighbor and relative Jersiais. Being a descendant of the Norman language, it is also influenced by Old Norse and English. With some difficulty, it is mutually intelligible with Jerrisis. There are even fewer people who still speak Guenesiais than Jersiais.

  • Native speakers : About 200

Irish – Northern Ireland

Of course, Irish is spoken in the Republic of Ireland, but it is also spoken (but less so) in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. Irish is a Celtic language originating from the island of Ireland. It was the first language of the population until the end of the 18th century.

It is still spoken as a first language in some communities in places like Cork, Dongel, Galway and Kerry (Republic of Ireland). Almost 40% of the population of the Republic of Ireland claim to have some ability to speak Irish.

  • Speakers: About 1.8 million with at least some capacity

In Northern Ireland (this is actually the UK), around 11% say they have some knowledge of Irish and 3.7% can “speak, read, write and understand” Irish. A 1999 survey showed that 1% spoke it as their main language at home.

Mostly extinct languages ​​of the British Isles

  • Cornish: Once spoken in Cornwall it is now considered extinct except for a few people trying to revive the language
  • manx: The ancient Isle of Man language has disappeared as a first language since 1974 – Some speakers are trying to revive the language

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