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Information about language is important for understanding society and planning appropriate services. A question on speaking Welsh has been asked in every Census in Wales since 1981 and the Labour Force Survey asks about first language at home.

Publications

Census 2001 Commentaries by theme and region
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census paints a big picture of society and is a benchmark at the start of the 21st Century. Census 2001 commentaries look in a little more depth at the 'big picture' for the UK, and provide commentary on aspects of a topic in England and Wales as a whole, and on topics in Wales or the English regions. The counts that the commentaries are based on come from the Key Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales released in February 2003.
Census 2001 Key Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Key Statistics series of reports provide a compact and self-contained reference of key results from the Census in an easily digestible form. Each report includes results for every topic covered by the Census, for a range of different geographical breakdowns of England and Wales.
Census 2001 Local Authority Profiles
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 population profiles collect key figures from the first major reports on the 2001 Census - the 'key statistics for local authorities in England and Wales' - originally released in February 2003. This snapshot of the resident population provides population totals by age and sex and summary profile information covering People, Places and Families, Ethnicity and Religion, Health, Work and Housing.
Census 2001 Local authority thematic maps
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 thematic maps illustrate the distribution of a selection of the key statistics from the Census, for local authorities throughout England and Wales.
Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales contains detailed statistical tables that cover the range of topics from the 2001 Census. Released in two parts, the report contains results for England and Wales as a whole, in a variety of tables. Standard tables provide cross-tabulation of two or more variables, theme tables bring together a range of results on a particular population and supplementary tables provide further information on some individual variables.
Census 2001 Report for Parliamentary Constituencies
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Report for parliamentary constituencies provides a compact and self-contained reference of key results for constituencies throughout the UK. The constituency profiles are a summary of the main Census indicators for each consituency, with more detailed results available on the CD accompanying the printed report. Results are provided for European Electoral Regions, Scottish Parliamentary Regions and Parliamentary Constituencies in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Census 2001 Report on the Welsh language
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Report on the Welsh language provides tables that cross tabulate results on the Welsh language with others from the 2001 Census. The majority of the tables are those Welsh language tables contained within the main Census 2001 'Standard Tables', and are presented for Wales as a whole. In addition, some tables cover Unitary Authorities and National Assembly Regional Committee areas, and the Welsh language profile contains detailed Welsh language data for Communities in Wales.
Census 2001 Summary theme figures and rankings
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Summary theme figures and rankings provide counts and rankings on aspects of a topic for each local authority in England and Wales. Each local authority has an England and Wales ranking, and local authorities are also grouped into Government Office Regions to provide a regional ranking. The counts and rankings are based on figures from the Key Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales which was originally released in February 2003.
Experience of Irish culture and heritage by adults in Northern Ireland: Findings from the Continuous Household Survey (CHS)
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their experience of Irish culture and heritage.
Focus on Wales: Its people
Department: Office for National Statistics
Overview of the people of Wales, looking at their characteristics, sense of national identity, ethnic diversity and Welsh language skills.
Modern Foreign Languages in Schools in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Statistical bulletin examining the available data on examination entry and performance in modern foreign languages GCSE (not including short course GCSE) and A levels.
Public Attitudes towards the Irish Language in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This publication presents findings from the Omnibus Survey in relation to the attitudes of adults aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland towards the Irish Language.
Public Views on Ulster-Scots Culture, Heritage and Language in Northern Ireland Findings from the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey April 2010
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
Providing views on Ulster-Scots culture, heritage and language in Northern Ireland
The Experience of Ulster-Scots culture and heritage by adults in Northern Ireland: Findings from the Continuous Household Survey (CHS)
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their experience of Ulster-Scots culture and heritage
The knowledge and use of the Irish language by adults in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their knowledge and use of the Irish Language
The knowledge and use of the Ulster-Scots language by adults in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their knowledge and use of the Ulster-Scots language.
Welsh in Higher Education Institutions
Department: Welsh Government
Provides information about students enrolled at Welsh Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) taught through the medium of Welsh and information on staff teaching through the medium of Welsh.
Welsh in Schools
Department: Welsh Government
Presents a variety of statistics related to the use of the Welsh language in schools in Wales.

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Overview

Information about language is of interest for a number of reasons:

  • to provide services in other languages where English is not understood

  • to gain a better understanding of diversity in the UK enhancing information about ethnic group

  • to understand the impact of language ability on social exclusion 

  • to monitor the uptake of national languages other than English, for example, Welsh

There are a variety of aspects of language use that surveys can measure:

  • whether an individual understands, speaks, reads or writes a language

  • the languages an individual speaks at home

  • an individual’s main language

  • proficiency in English

  • how often an individual speaks a language

In the 2006 Labour Force Survey, English was not the first language at home for 6 per cent of the UK population aged 16 and older:

  • Welsh     0.4 per cent

  • Ulster Scots/ Ullans   0.1 per cent

  • Gaelic   <0.1 per cent

  • Other     5.4 per cent

A question on speaking Welsh has been included on every Census in Wales since 1891:

  • 54 per cent of the population spoke Welsh in 1891 

  • the proportion of people speaking Welsh has fallen every year until 1991

  • 19 per cent of the population spoke Welsh in 1991

In 2001, 21 per cent of the population in Wales said they could speak Welsh - a rise largely associated with the language now being taught in schools:

  • 20 per cent able to read Welsh 

  • 18 per cent able to write Welsh

  • 24 per cent could understand spoken Welsh

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Technical Data

Current position

Previous UK censuses have collected complete information on whether people understand, speak, read or write Welsh, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic. These questions were included in the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish censuses respectively. 

The Welsh Language Act 1993 places a duty on public organisations in Wales to treat both the Welsh and English languages equally. Further information on Welsh language Census data can be found on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website.

The Labour Force Survey asks:

  • ‘What is your first language at home?’ in the UK to those aged 16. Response options are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’, ‘Gaelic’, ‘Ulster Scots/ Ullans’ and ‘Other’

  • additional questions about whether language difficulties have caused problems in ‘finding or keeping a job’ and ‘with your education’

  • questions about the knowledge of Welsh language in Wales

Future plans

ONS proposes to continue to measure Welsh language proficiency in Wales in 2011.

A detailed consultation on user needs for ethnicity, national identity, language and religion information from the future 2011 Census in England and Wales took place between December 2006 and March 2007.

Question testing research was carried out with members of the public throughout 2007. ONS made recommendations in autumn 2008 on the questions for the 2009 Rehearsal and 2011 Census. These include:

  •  ‘What is your main language?’

  •  ‘How well can you speak English?'

Further details on the consultations and the reports that followed can be found on the ONS Census website. These responses, along with those from other users and stakeholders, informed further question development.

Question testing research with members of the public took place throughout 2007. ONS made recommendations in autumn 2008 on the questions for the 2009 Rehearsal and 2011 Census. These will need to be agreed by Parliament in early 2010.

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Glossary

  • Frequency

    How often a person uses a language.

  • Language ability

    Generic term referring to all aspects of language.

  • Language knowledge/skill

    Whether a person can understand/speak/read/write a language without any reference to how well they can do it.

  • Language proficiency

    How well a person understands/speaks/reads/writes a language.

  • Social exclusion

    Certain groups within a society are systematically disadvantaged because they are discriminated against. Exclusion may be due to discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity or age.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Equalities and Wellbeing Branch

Email: equalitiesandwellbeing@ons.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 455010

Equalties and Wellbeing Branch, rm: 1.024 Office For National Statistics Cardiff Rd Newport NP10 8XG

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