Languages of Wales
  • Welsh (29.3%),[2]
  • English
  • Welsh or English 96.7%
  • Polish 0.7%
  • Arabic 0.3%[3]
ForeignEither French, German, Spanish or Mandarin[4]
SignedBritish Sign Language
Keyboard layout

The languages of Wales include the Welsh language, which is an official language of Wales, and English, which is also considered an official language in Wales.[5][6] The official languages of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) are also Welsh and English. According to the 2021 census, the Welsh-speaking population of Wales aged three or older was 17.8% (538,300 people) and nearly three quarters of the population in Wales said they had no Welsh language skills.[7]

Official languages

Welsh is an official language of Wales, and is treated "no less favourably than the English language" which is also considered an official language, as legislated in the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011.[8][5][6] The official languages of the Senedd are Welsh and English.[9]

The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 recognises that Welsh and English are official languages and established a legal framework for a statutory duty on public bodies in Wales to comply with Welsh standards. The legislation allows people to live through the medium of Welsh if they so wish. The legislation states “the Welsh language must not be treated less favourably than the English language”.[10] The 2011 measure also created the Welsh Language Commissioner post.[11]

Main language

In Wales, 96.7% of usual residents (2.9 million) aged three and above spoke Welsh or English as their main language. This was compared to 97.1% in 2011.[3]

Of the 101,000 people in Wales who did not speak Welsh or English as a main language in 2021, 78.0% said they could speak English well or very well, similar to 77.1% in 2011. 22.0% of people who did not speak English or Welsh as a main language could not speak English very well or at all.[3]

In both 2011 and 2021, Polish was the most spoken main language after Welsh and English, accounting for 0.7% of the population (21,000), up from 0.6% in 2011. Arabic was the next most common main language in Wales at 0.3%, up from 0.2% in 2011.[3]

British Sign Language (BSL) was the preferred language of 900 (0.03%), up from 800 in 2011. An additional 300 usual residents used another form of sign language or communication system other than BSL.[3]


Main articles: Welsh language and Welsh-speaking population

Welsh is a Celtic language primarily spoken in Wales. It is the traditional language of Wales but was supplanted in large part by English, becoming a minority language in the early 20th century.[12] For the year ending 30 June 2022, the Welsh Annual Population Survey showed that 29.7%, 899,500 people aged three or older were able to speak Welsh.[13] According to the 2021 census, 17.8% (538,300 people) of Wales' population, aged 3 or older, can speak Welsh, a decrease from 19% in 2011.[7][14]


Welsh English

Main article: Welsh English

Welsh English or Anglo-Welsh is the distinct form of English used in Wales.

Aside from lexical borrowings from Welsh like bach (little, wee), eisteddfod, nain and taid (grandmother and grandfather respectively), there exist distinctive grammatical conventions in vernacular Welsh English. Examples of this include the use by some speakers of the tag question isn't it? regardless of the form of the preceding statement and the placement of the subject and the verb after the predicate for emphasis, e.g. Fed up, I am or Running on Friday, he is.[15]

In South Wales, the word "where" may often be expanded to "where to", as in the question, "Where to is your Mam?". The word "butty" is used to mean "friend" or "mate".[16]

There is no standard variety of English that is specific to Wales, but such features are readily recognised by Anglophones from the rest of the UK as being from Wales, including the (actually rarely used) phrase look you which is a translation of a Welsh language tag.[15]

Welsh Romani

Main article: Welsh Romani language

Welsh Romani (or Welsh Romany; sometimes also known as Kååle[17]) is a variety of the Romani language which was spoken fluently in Wales until at least 1950.[18] It was spoken by the Kale group of the Romani people who arrived in Britain during the 15th century. The first record of Roma in Wales comes from the 16th century. Welsh Romani is one of the many Northern Romani dialects.[19]

Sign languages

In 2017, the British Deaf Association claimed there were about 6,000 British Sign Language (BSL) users in Wales.[20] Ongoing training and courses in BSL are offered in Wales by the Wales Council for Deaf People (WCDP), a voluntary umbrella organisation.[21]

Makaton has limited use in Wales. It is not a sign language but a system using signs and symbols to help people who find speaking difficult, such as people with Down's Syndrome.[22]

Norman French and Latin

Isca Augusta, the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon

Latin is also used to a limited degree in certain official mottos, legal terminology (habeas corpus), and various ceremonial contexts. Latin abbreviations can also be seen on British coins. The use of Latin has declined greatly in recent years. At one time, Latin and Greek were commonly taught in British schools.[23]

See also


  1. ^ "Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011".
  2. ^ "'Encouraging' increase in Welsh speakers". BBC News. 22 September 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ethnic group, national identity, language and religion in Wales (Census 2021)". GOV.WALES. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  4. ^ "Global Futures: A plan to improve and promote international languages in Wales 2022 to 2025 [HTML]". GOV.WALES. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 | Law Wales". Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Welsh Language Standards". University of South Wales/Prifysgol De Cymru.
  7. ^ a b "Welsh language in Wales (Census 2021)". GOV.WALES. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  8. ^ "Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011".
  9. ^ "Official Languages Scheme" (PDF). Senedd.Wales.
  10. ^ "Welsh Language Standards". University of South Wales/Prifysgol De Cymru.
  11. ^ "The Welsh Language Measure". Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  12. ^ "The Industrial Revolution". Wales History. BBC. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Welsh language data from the Annual Population Survey: July 2021 to June 2022". GOV.WALES. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  14. ^ QS206WA - Welsh language skills, ONS 2011 census. Out of the 2,955,841 residents of Wales over the age of three, 562,016 (19%) can speak Welsh. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  15. ^ a b Crystal, David (2003). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, pp. 335
  16. ^ "Why butty rarely leaves Wales". Wales Online. 1 October 2006.
  17. ^ "ROMLEX: Romani Dialects".
  18. ^ Price, Glanville (2000) Languages in Britain and Ireland, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
  19. ^ Norbert Boretzky: Kommentierter Dialektatlas des Romani. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004 p. 18
  20. ^ Price, Ben (15 March 2017). "Sign language costs 'too high' for some families". BBC News. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  21. ^ "WCDP - A voice with you". Welsh Council for Deaf People. WCDP. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  22. ^ "Call for Makaton signs to be taught in Wales' schools". BBC News. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  23. ^ Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.6.16. Retrieved on 2011-03-17.