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Languages. Main article: Languages of the United Kingdom
Main article: Languages of the United Kingdom
The English-speaking world. Countries in dark blue have a majority of native speakers; countries where English is an official but not a majority language are shaded in light blue. English is one of the official languages of the European Union and the United Nations
The UK's de facto official language is English. It is estimated that 95% of the UK's population are monolingual English speakers. 5.5% of the population are estimated to speak languages brought to the UK as a result of relatively recent immigration. South Asian languages, including Bengali, Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati, are the largest grouping and are spoken by 2.7% of the UK population. According to the 2011 census, Polish has become the second largest language spoken in England and has 546,000 speakers.
Four Celtic languages are spoken in the UK: Welsh; Irish; Scottish Gaelic; and Cornish. The first three are recognised as regional or minority languages, subject to specific measures of protection and promotion under relevant European law. Cornish, although recognised, is not specifically protected. In the 2001 Census over a fifth (21%) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh, an increase from the 1991 Census (18%). In addition it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England. In the same census in Northern Ireland 167,487 people (10.4%) stated that they had "some knowledge of Irish" (see Irish language in Northern Ireland), almost exclusively in the nationalist (mainly Catholic) population. Over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2% of the population) had some Gaelic language ability, including 72% of those living in the Outer Hebrides. The number of schoolchildren being taught through Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish is increasing. Among emigrant-descended populations some Scottish Gaelic is still spoken in Canada (principally Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island), and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.
Scots, a language descended from early northern Middle English, has limited recognition alongside its regional variant, Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland, without specific commitments to protection and promotion.
It is compulsory for pupils to study a second language up to the age of 14 in England, and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. All pupils in Wales are taught Welsh as a second language up to age 16, or are taught in Welsh.