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Multilingual cities


12th September 2013

Emily Robertshaw

Which UK city has the densest linguistic diversity in the UK? Before you guess, it isn’t London…

… it’s multilingual Manchester

Manchester leads the UK as the city with most dense linguistic diversity. Four out of ten residents speak languages other than their mother-tongue and this might have something to do with the fact that, after London, Manchester is the city with the most rapidly growing population in the UK. Compared to a UK average of 7%, Manchester’s population increased by 19% between 2001 and 2011. This growing population includes speakers of a variety of languages, not all of which you might expect to find in the Northern city, such as Nahuatl, a language with Aztec origins.

The wide range of languages spoken does not however spell a dilution in the quality of English spoken in the city; 80% of residents for whom English is a second language say that their language skills are good or even very good. While not perfect in terms of service provision for speakers of other languages, Manchester is an inspiring example of a UK city that seeks to facilitate the learning of the national language yet at the same time does not discourage speakers of other languages, through the provision of interpreting and translation services. A notable example of this is the presence of multilingual staff and signage visible in some of the city’s shops, particularly in areas where the majority of residents have English as a second language. 

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