English language skills
Last updated 17 May 2019 - see all updates
There is a new version of this page. View the latest version.
- 1. Navigate to Main facts and figures section
- 2. Navigate toBy ethnicity section
- 3. Navigate toBy ethnicity and sex section
- 4. Navigate toBy ethnicity and area section
- 5. Navigate toBy ethnicity, sex and age section
- 6. Navigate toOther languages spoken section
- 7. Navigate to Methodology section
- 8. Navigate to Data sources section
- 9. Navigate to Download the data section
1. Main facts and figures
- at the 2011 Census, more than 90% of people in England and Wales said English was their first language
- 1.3% of the population of England and Wales (726,000 people) could speak English but not well, and 0.3% of the population (138,000 people) reported that they could not speak English at all
- Polish was the most commonly spoken language after English
- after White British people, people from a Black Caribbean background were the ethnic group most likely to speak English as their main language
- people from a Bangladeshi ethnic background were the group most likely to not speak English well, or at all
- people from an Other White ethnic background were the group least likely to speak English as their main language
- 3 in 5 of those who couldn’t speak English well were female (Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were 5 times more likely than their male counterparts to speak no English at all)
- there were regional differences in the percentage of people who couldn’t speak English for most ethnic groups
The ethnic categories used in this data
Data was collected using the 18 categories for ethnicity in the 2011 Census.
The data is broken down at the regional level by ethnicity, sex and age.
The ethnic groupings used are:
- White and Mixed combined
- Asian Indian
- Asian Pakistani
- Asian Bangladeshi
- Asian Chinese/Other
- Black African
- Black Caribbean
- Black Other
- All ethnic groups
2. By ethnicity
|Ethnicity||Main language is English/Welsh||Other main language: could speak English very well or well||Other main language: could not speak English well||Other main language: could not speak English|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||98.2||1.5||0.3||0.1|
|Mixed White/Black African||83.0||14.2||2.3||0.4|
Summary of English language skills By ethnicity Summary
3. By ethnicity and sex
|Ethnicity||Males Could not speak English||Males Could not speak English well||Females Could not speak English||Females Could not speak English well|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||0.1||0.3||0.1||0.3|
|Mixed White/Black African||0.3||1.9||0.5||2.8|
Summary of English language skills By ethnicity and sex Summary
4. By ethnicity and area
|Ethnicity||North East||North West||Yorkshire and The Humber||East Midlands||West Midlands||East of England||London||South East||South West||Wales|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||0.1||0.0||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.1|
|Mixed White/Black African||0.2||0.2||0.6||0.2||0.4||0.3||0.6||0.2||0.2||0.2|
Summary of English language skills By ethnicity and area Summary
5. By ethnicity, sex and age
|3 to 9 years||10 to 24 years||25 to 44 years||45 to 64 years||65 years and over|
|Ethnicity||3 to 9 years Males||3 to 9 years Females||10 to 24 years Males||10 to 24 years Females||25 to 44 years Males||25 to 44 years Females||45 to 64 years Males||45 to 64 years Females||65 years and over Males||65 years and over Females|
|Mixed White/Black African||0.5||0.4||0.1||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.2||0.9||2.0||5.6|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.0||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.1||0.2|
Summary of English language skills By ethnicity, sex and age Summary
6. Other languages spoken
|English (English or Welsh in Wales)||49,808|
|Bengali (with Sylheti and Chatgaya)||221|
|Chinese (other than Mandarin and Cantonese)||141|
Summary of English language skills Other languages spoken Summary
Standard statistical techniques have been used to measure how much the 2011 Census has undercounted, to adjust the results and to help more accurately assess the characteristics of individuals and households.
All census population estimates were extensively quality assured using other national and local sources of information.
The 2011 Census achieved its overall target response rate of 94% of the usually resident population of England and Wales, and over 80% in all local authorities. The population estimate for England and Wales of 56.1 million is estimated with 95% confidence to be accurate to within +/- 85,000 (0.15%).
Simultaneous but separate censuses took place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These were run by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) respectively.
Suppression rules and disclosure control
In order to protect against disclosure of personal information, records have been swapped between different geographic areas. Some counts will be affected, particularly small counts at the lowest geographical level.
Further technical information
2011 Census information on The Office for National Statistics website
8. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Office for National Statistics
Every 10 years
Purpose of data source
The Census is carried out every 10 years. Data from the March 2021 Census will not be available until 2022, so 2011 Census data is used instead.
Census data gives the government the information it needs to plan and run public services. It is also used as a benchmark for other statistical estimates, and it can help illustrate differences between various groups in the population.
9. Download the data
This file contains: Region code, Region name, Time, Gender, Age group, Ethnicity, Language proficiency, Count, Percentage