The city of Leicester is one of the most linguistically diverse places in the United Kingdom. The last national census found that there were at least 89 languages being used in the city. However, these findings group together some of the more obscure languages and fail to paint the full picture. While the Multilingual Manchester project provided in depth research into the number of languages spoken in Manchester, there has been less research done to discover the exact number in Leicester. But a statement by the Leicestershire Police force put the number at 130 languages and dialects spoken in the city of Leicester in 2016.
Most Common Languages in Leicester
After English, Gujarati is by far the most commonly spoken language in Leicester. In 2011 there were 36,347 Gujarati speakers, which means 11.5% of the city speaks Gujarati as their main language.
No other language comes anywhere close to the number of Gujarati speakers in Leicester, however there are plenty of other languages around. Panjabi is the third most common after English and Gujarati, with 7,560 speakers in the city. After this is Polish, the UK’s second most common foreign language, which has 6,192 speakers in Leicester.
Urdu is the fifth most popular language in Leicester. This means that three of Leicester’s five top languages are South Asian languages. In total there are 55,758 South Asian language speakers in Leicester. This includes the Gujarati and Panjabi speakers, 3,376 Urdu speakers, 1,808 Bengali speakers, 1,498 Tamil speakers, 1,095 Hindi speakers and smaller numbers speaking other South Asian languages.
While South Asian languages may be most common, European languages are also widely spoken across the city of Leicester. European languages (excluding those native to the UK) make up the second largest language group in Leicester, with 13,656 speakers. This includes a large number of Portuguese speakers, who numbered at 1,750 in the last census.
Leicester is also home to 3,331 Somali speakers, who make up the majority of Leicester’s 5,760 African language speakers. There are also more than 3,000 people speaking a Chinese language. However, no singular Chinese language has significant numbers on its own.
Finally, there are 2,516 Arabic speakers, 1,520 Kurdish speakers and 1,021 Farsi speakers, which must be mentioned as some of the most popular languages in the city.
Celebrating Diversity in Leicester
Leicester is a city proud to be diverse. This can be seen through a number of its attractions, festivals and famous roads.
A length of Belgrave Road is renowned for its traditional Indian jewellery shops, Asian fashion shops and Asian restaurants. This area is known as the Golden Mile and is perhaps the closest the UK comes to an authentic Indian bazaar. Once a year this also becomes the sight of the Diwali celebration.
Leicester is home to the largest Diwali celebration outside of Indian. This is perhaps not surprising considering the number of South Asian language speakers found in the city. This celebration includes lights, food, and fireworks during which the Golden mile is closed off for the festival. Across the rest of the year Leicester celebrates Vaisakhi, Eid, Hanukkah, and Chinese New Year. It also hosts the third largest Caribbean Carnival in the country.
Though the Golden Mile might be more famous, Narborough Road is Leicester’s most diverse street. In fact, not only is Narborough Road the most diverse street in Leicester, but in 2015 it was declared the most diverse street in the United Kingdom.
Narborough Road gained this title because of the “Super Diverse Streets” research project. This was conducted by the London School of Economics and funded by the Economic and Social Research Councils. The project compared diverse streets across the UK and found that Narborough Road had business owners from 22 different countries and 4 different continents, making it the most diverse street in the United Kingdom.
Coronavirus Translation Project
During the coronavirus pandemic, Leicester city council has worked to translate important advice into several languages. This included the languages Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali.
This was partly due to concerns that many were not even aware of the lockdown, because of the language barrier. To combat this the city council and the BBC have worked to ensure vital information is available in different languages.
Government leaflets, NHS posters and audio messages were created in more than ten languages, and the BBC helped to create videos in six languages answering questions and giving important instructions. The BBC also began a news bulletin in Gujarati, to ensure the whole population of the city can remain safe and informed.
Here at Translate UK we work with interpreters and translators across Leicester providing language services. Whether a business needs their marketing materials to be more accessible or you are looking for an interpreter we can help you today.