Sign of the times? Polish is England's second language

Jan 31, 2013

Brilliant? Or does the census show 'the truth' about Labour's lax immigration policies?

Getty Images

IT'S official: Polish is England's second language with 546,000 speakers.

Brilliant, says The Guardian, whose editorial praises the Polish language with all "its mind-bending plosives, tongue-twisting fricatives and terrifying affricates". The paper encourages Britons to learn the language, stressing "those who've done it say it's worth the effort".

Others are less enthused about the 2011 Census statistics, revealed yesterday. The figures paint a picture of a multi-lingual country where more than one million households do not speak English as a main language – with 22 per cent of London residents using a main language other than English.

For the Daily Express the statistics underline the "shocking truth" about immigration, which they claim has "smashed" community cohesion to pieces.

The Daily Mail's Stephen Glover suggests the problem is not with those "charming and delightful" Poles but the Labour government, whose lax approach to immigration meant the foreign-born population increased by 3.8 million between 2001-2011, the period covered by the census. To add insult to injury, Polish Business Leaders gave Tony Blair a special award for his role in helping Poles come to the UK just days before the census figures were released.

"The Poles, as I shall never tire of saying, are a wonderful people, but that's hardly the point," Glover writes. "The point is that, out of a mixture of cynical calculation and wanton carelessness, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown allowed them and others to come here in numbers that placed an enormous strain on public services, and destroyed job opportunities for many Britons."

Not everyone agrees with his take. A spokesperson for left-leaning think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research told the Metro the Polish community "has been absorbed into the country very smoothly – it's a remarkable success story for immigration".

The census figures also revealed 138,000 residents - less than 0.5% of the population - cannot speak English at all. Robert Oxley of the TaxPayers' Alliance argued Britons should "make an effort to learn to speak English" to prevent translation costs rocketing.

But columnist and author Rachel Shabi tweeted that the tiny proportion of non-English speakers out of a population of 56.1 million in England and Wales indicated "the UK isn't overrun with 'foreigners' who 'can't be bothered' to learn English after all".

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

Bardzo dobry, witam w Anglii, welcome to Britain all you Polish people, raise the tone of the neighbourhood! Thank you for fighting and dying for us during the second World War, thank you for the Miracle of the Vistula. We owe you. Not many people know about this, the truth about Poland is simply not taught in British schools.

Sorry about this but I made a mistake in the use of witam. That's the singular form, I should have written 'witamy', I think

Thank you very much for your comment! You said the truth about the role of Poles before and during the Second World War. Greetings from Poland! P.S. The 'witamy' is, indeed, a correct form in your sentence, you are right.