Study in United Kingdom

What Languages Do British People Speak?

What Languages Do British People Speak?

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There are many languages and dialects in the United Kingdom, despite English being the dominant language. Because the country has close ties to Europe and a long history of colonialism, it has many languages and dialects.

Here are the languages British people speak:


Most of the UK population speaks English, equating to 58 million speakers. English is not the 'official' language by law in the country, but it is the de-facto official language. Due to its widespread use across the UK, English is spoken in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is also used in all official capacities in each country.

Geographically, English is spoken everywhere in the United Kingdom but is most prevalent in England. Northern Scotland and Wales have regional languages, which are most likely to encounter speakers of minority languages.

Languages in Scotland

A part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is an official English-speaking country. However, due to the country's long history and strong culture, other languages have survived as minority languages.


In the UK, Scots ranks second in number of languages spoken. Although this is a regional dialect of English, it is considered a separate language in the national census. A main part of Scotland's identity is Scots, a language spoken mostly in northern and regional areas. It is typically learned as a second language after English.

One of the most distinctive accents in the UK is the Scottish accent. You may worry that native speakers will have difficulty understanding you, but this is unlikely to happen. When you first hear an accent, it can be difficult to understand - but with practice and exposure, it will become easier.

Scottish people welcome and accommodate international students – more than 65,000 international students from 180 countries choose to study in Scotland annually. Listen carefully and ask people questions if needed - they will gladly help you.


Gaelic is a Celtic language spoken in Scotland, and you'll find evidence of this every day, from place names to aspects of local history. Most of what is now modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking. Although Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of the UK, it is an important one, and is protected as an indigenous language. Gaelic remains an important part of Scottish culture, especially in the Scottish Highlands.

Language of Aberdeen

It is not unusual for some parts of Scotland to have their own dialect, which is usually an integral part of their culture and history. Doric is the dialect spoken in Aberdeen. Although it has not been commonly used in modern-day Aberdeen, it has been extensively documented in literature, poetry, ballads, and songs. Local poets and writers sometimes write in Doric to celebrate its culture.

Here are some phrases you’ll come across in Scotland:

  • Bonnie - Beautiful
  • Craic - Fun
  • Eh? - Do you agree?
  • Scran - Food
  • Canny - Cannot
  • Aye - Yes

Languages in Wales

Wales speaks both Welsh and English, although English is the dominant language. Welsh is the official language according to the Welsh government, but English is far more common.


For over 2,000 years, Welsh was the dominant language in Wales. It was only in 1911 that English overtook Welsh as the language of the nation. A legal status is granted to Welsh as the third most spoken language in the United Kingdom. Over the last few decades, laws have been passed that require all official documents and public services to be written in both Welsh and English. As a result, road signs in Wales display both languages.

Although this legal requirement exists, only 19% of Welsh speakers actually speak Welsh fluently, compared to 99% who speak English. However, the legislation passed ensures that Welsh will continue to be used widely in Wales for a long time to come.

Here are some phrases you’ll come across in Wales:

  • Sut wyt ti? – How are you?
  • Fy enw i yw – My name is
  • Bore da / P’nawn da – Good morning / Good afternoon
  • Diolch yn fawr – Thank you very much
  • Os gwelwch yn dda – Please

Languages in Northern Ireland

English is the first language in Northern Ireland. However, Ullans (Ulster-Scots) and Irish are also considered culturally significant. Here are the languages spoken in Northern Ireland:


A Celtic language, Gaeilge, or Irish as it is known locally, is one of the world's oldest and most historic written languages, according to Foras na Gaeilge. In schools across the country and in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) regions, its poetic flow is heard in shops, pubs, streets, fairs and festivals.


The Ullans language is a variant of Scots, the language brought to Ulster by Scottish settlers in the early 17th century. Scots is part of the West Germanic family, a beautiful lyrical tongue taught in universities today.

British Sign Language

British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used by the Deaf community. It is a separate language from English, not a way to express words through signs. Approximately 70,000 people use BSL as their primary language, and up to 250,000 people use some BSL.

British Sign Language is different from French or American Sign Language, for example, like other languages, BSL also has regional varieties or dialects. BSL has a long history and culture, but it was banned from schools for Deaf children for most of the 20th century.

Since 2003, the Government has officially recognized BSL as an independent language despite this setback.

Other Languages


The increase in immigration to the UK over the last 20 years has resulted in an increase in the number of European languages spoken in the country. Polish is the most widely spoken European language with over 500,000 native speakers.

Types of British Accents

English is spoken by more than 1.5 billion people, meaning there are several English accents. Here are a few types of British accents:


The cockney accent comes from South London and is one of the most well-known. It is used in films like Oliver Twist, which was adapted in 1968. The accent is also used in the musical, My Fair Lady, which tells the story of turning Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower seller, into a 'proper lady'.


The Birmingham accent, or Brummie, is one of the many accents of the West Midlands, and it's characterized as monotonous. Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osborne speaks with a broad Brummie accent.


The Geordie accent is from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tyneside, and many famous people, including the singer Cheryl Cole and the proud-geordie footballer Alan Shearer speak it. Geordie dialects are described as sing-song and contain words derived from Germanic and Scandinavian cultures.


People from Liverpool are regularly referred to as 'Scousers' due to the Scouse accent, confined to Liverpool and Merseyside until the 1950s. The Beatles are easily the most well-known speakers of the accent.

West Country

A West Country accent is classified into two types: those from Devon and Cornwall sounding like pirates, and those from South West England sounding like Hobbits from the Lord of the Rings.


Famous people with the Yorkshire accent include Sean Bean from Game of Thrones and Melanie B from Spice Girls. The accent is from Yorkshire county in northern England, the land of scrumptious Yorkshire puddings.

How Do You Say Hello in England?

English greetings vary depending on the situation and the person you are speaking to. Learning English greetings will help you integrate more easily with British culture since you will become comfortable with introductions and expand your social circle as a result.

Here are a few English greetings:

  • Good Morning / Afternoon / Evening.
  • How do you do?
  • It’s lovely to meet you.
  • Hello/ Hi / Hey.

Learn more: Erudera’s Guide on English Greetings for Formal and Informal Situations.

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