Bengali has been officially named as the second most-spoken language in London, followed by Polish and Turkish – with around 165,311 London residents speaking one of the three as their first language.
Yet according to official statistics less than one in 10 Brits (8 per cent) can fluently speak a second language, which means they’re potentially missing out on friendships, relationships and even partnerships with the many speakers of foreign languages across the capital – especially as 311,210 London residents speak a foreign language as their main language at home.
In order to highlight and celebrate London’s cultural diversity, as well as encourage residents to connect with each other, particularly in the current political climate, adult learning charity, City Lit, conducted research to find out the most common foreign languages spoken in boroughs of the capital.
The research identified the main languages that London residents speak in their homes aside from English, allowing City Lit to reveal the foreign languages spoken most within every London borough.
Bengali is officially the second language of London, with around 71,609 London residents speaking it as their main language. It’s the most common main language people speak, second only to English, across three different boroughs – 3 per cent of Camden residents say Bengali is their main language at home, as do 7 per cent of Newham residents and 18 per cent of those living in Tower Hamlets.
Despite this being the main language of such a large number of Londoners, only a mere 3 per cent of Brits can speak fluent Bengali – meaning 97 per cent of the nation is potentially unable to have an effective, in-depth conversation with people who speak it as their main language
Polish is the second most common foreign language spoken by Londoners, with seven boroughs stating this is the second most spoken main language after English. Again, only 3 per cent of Brits can speak fluent Polish – meaning 97 per cent of people in the UK could be missing out on connecting with 48,585 London residents.
Approximately 6 per cent of Ealing residents say the main language they speak at home is Polish, as do 2 per cent of people in Barnet, 1 per cent of Bromley residents, 2 per cent of those living in Lewisham, 4 per cent of Merton-ers, and 1% living in Richmond upon Thames.
Turkish came in third, with four boroughs revealing this to be the second most spoken main language after English – yet a shocking 99% of the UK can’t speak or understand it competently.
Approximately 45,117 London residents speak Turkish at home – it would be a fantastic language to learn if you reside in Enfield, where 6% of residents speak it as their main language, along with Hackney (5 per cent), Haringey (5 per cent), and Islington (2 per cent).
London’s top 10 most spoken foreign languages
- Bengali – 71,609 speakers
- Polish – 48,585 speakers
- Turkish – 45,117 speakers
- Gujarati – 43,868 speakers
- Panjabi – 22,108 speakers
- Urdu – 18,127 speakers
- French – 13,013 speakers
- Arabic – 11,971 speakers
- Tamil – 10,513 speakers
- Portuguese – 9,897 speakers
Chris Jones Director of Sales and Marketing said, City Lit, said: “Here at City Lit, we love to celebrate the cultural diversity we are so privileged to have here in the capital of England. It’s so interesting to see the range of languages spoken at home by people living just next door to us, but in some cases we might not be able to connect with them on a deeper level due to the potential language barrier.
“People who are unable to speak English might feel somewhat isolated in our country, and in these uncertain political times we urge London residents to reach out to their neighbours – no matter what language they speak – and celebrate each other’s differences and similarities.
“Diversity and inclusivity is something that makes London such a fantastic and special place to live – and learning a new language – especially one that’s commonly spoken in your area – is a great way to connect with those around you and broaden your experiences.”
City Lit teach over 27 different languages at various levels including French, German, Italian, Arabic and Korean, To learn more about City Lit language courses, visit https://www.citylit.ac.uk/catalog/category/view/id/1280.
To take part in City Lit’s language quiz, visit: https://www.citylit.ac.uk/blog/quiz-how-many-these-languages-do-you-know