Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

English language

English is the official language of the United Kingdom and is spoken by around 400 million people around the world.

English around the world

For centuries the use of English was confined to the British Isles, but it is now spoken by around 400 million people as their primary language and another 300 million as a key language when dealing with the business, academic and political institutions of their countries. It is estimated that 1,000 million people are taught English as a secondary language to some level.

English accents and dialect

There is considerable variation in the pronunciation of English (regional accents) and in the use of vocabulary and grammatical rules (dialects) across the country.

The British Library has published samples of UK regional dialects on the web. The extracts are taken from two large audio resources held in the British Library Sound Archive: the Survey of English Dialects and the Millennium Memory Bank. They provide an overview of spoken English during the second half of the 20th century.

Learning English

If English isn't your main language, you can do a course to help you improve your English. These courses are called ESOL or English for Speakers of Other Languages. Find out more using the link below.


Modern Welsh is the direct descendant of the Celtic language that was spoken throughout Britain at the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions in the 5th century.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 establishes in law the equality of the Welsh and English languages in Wales. It places an obligation on the public sector to treat the Welsh and English languages equally in the provision of services to the public in Wales.

According to the 2001 census results, 582,368 people aged three and over were able to speak Welsh - 20.8 per cent of the population of Wales.

The Welsh Language Board's (Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg) main function is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language. It provides a range of information about Welsh.

Gaelic in Scotland

The 2001 census recorded 65,674 people aged three or over as being able to speak, read or write Gaelic - 1.3 per cent of the Scottish population.


Since 2002, Cornish has been recognised as a minority language by the UK government, under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The Charter protects and promotes historical regional and minority languages in Europe, in recognition of the contribution they make to Europe's cultural diversity and historical traditions, and to limit the danger of extinction.

Additional links


Volunteering can help your community and you - find out how

Access keys