LONDON – Polish is the second-most-spoken language in England and Wales, new figures from the 2011 census revealed on Wednesday, followed by Punjabi and Urdu.
Over 92 percent of residents spoke English as their main language, and the majority of the rest spoke it well, although 138,000 residents — fewer than half of 1 percent — did not speak English at all, the Office for National Statistics said.
One percent of the population, or 546,000 people, listed Polish as their main language, a reflection of the wave of Eastern European migrants who moved to Britain after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004.
The news came a day after former Prime Minister Tony Blair was given an award by Polish business leaders for opening up the British labor market to Poland while in office from 1997 to 2007.
Polish speakers were concentrated in London, which unsurprisingly had the highest proportion of nonnative English speakers. Twenty-two percent, or 1.7 million people, listed a main language other than English in the capital.
The figures are likely to fuel a row over immigration from Bulgaria and Romania as the British government prepares for the lifting of controls on new EU arrivals at the end of the year.
Nationwide, Punjabi was the third-most-spoken language, spoken by 273,000 people, or half of 1 percent. Punjabi is concentrated in the West Midlands.
Urdu was in fourth place, spoken by 269,000 people, followed by Bengali (221,000), Gujarati (213,000), Arabic (159,000), French (147,000), Chinese (141,000) and Portuguese (133,000).
The next 10 most popular languages are Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Italian, Somali, Lithuanian, German, Farsi, Tagalog and Romanian.