English language skills
Last updated 30 September 2020 - see all updates
- 1. Navigate toMain facts and figures section
- 2. Navigate toThings you need to know section
- 3. Navigate toBy ethnicity section
- 4. Navigate toBy ethnicity and sex section
- 5. Navigate toBy ethnicity and area section
- 6. Navigate toBy ethnicity, sex and age section
- 7. Navigate toOther languages spoken section
- 8. Navigate toData sources section
- 9. Navigate toDownload 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
2. Things you need to know
What the data measures
This data measures:
- the percentage of people aged 3 and over in each ethnic group who speak English or Welsh as their main language
- how well people speak English, if it’s not their first language
- the number of people who speak the most common 11 languages in England and Wales
Percentages are rounded to 1 decimal place. Numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand.
Not included in the data
This data does not include households that did not answer the question about ethnicity.
94% of households completed the 2011 Census. Of those, 97% answered the question about ethnicity.
The data has been adjusted to take into account people and households who were not counted or counted incorrectly.
The ethnic groups used in the data
Data is shown for the 18 ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census.
Read the detailed methodology document for this data.
People completing the Census judged for themselves whether they spoke English very well, well, not very well, or not at all. Their English language skills were not tested.
People living in Wales were asked whether they spoke ‘English or Welsh’ or ‘Other’ (rather than just ‘English’ or ‘Other’). Only respondents selecting ‘Other’ were then asked how well they spoke English, so for the purposes of this analysis Welsh speakers are grouped with English speakers.
3. 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
4. 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
5. 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
6. 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
7. 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
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