How many languages do you imagine are spoken in Manchester? It might surprise you to learn that there may be more than 200 languages spoken in Manchester! This is according to the findings of the Multilingual Manchester project, a research project undertaken by the University of Manchester.
The research was coordinated by Professor Yaron Matras, a linguist at the university, who initially identified 153 languages in 2012, but after further research the figure was increased to over 200 languages a year later.
According to Professor Matras you are likely to hear 60 or 70 different languages spoken on the streets of Manchester at any given moment. This includes languages from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and the Caribbean. These findings revel that Manchester is in fact one of the most linguistically diverse cities in western Europe.
Manchester’s Most Common Languages
While Manchester may be home to hundreds of languages, some are far more common than others. According to the last National Census there are more than 24,000 people in the city speaking a South Asian language. This is not surprising as Urdu is the most common language in Manchester after English, with 13,000 speakers. There are also 4,700 Panjabi speakers and 3,100 Bengali speakers.
After the South Asian language, the largest foreign language group in Manchester is the EU foreign languages. There are approximately 20,000 EU language speakers in the city, including 6,400 Polish speakers and 2,300 French speakers. There are also over a thousand speakers of Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese, respectively.
East Asian languages are also common in Manchester, with 11,200 speakers. More than 8,000 of East Asian speakers in Manchester speak a Chinese language, with Cantonese being the most common.
According to the last census there are also more than 6,000 speakers of West/Central Asian languages and African languages. Among the ten most common languages in Manchester we find Arabic with 7,000 speakers, Somali with 2,900 speakers, Farsi with 2,600 speakers and Kurdish with 1,800 speakers. However, these figures are likely to have increased since the last national census.
Rare Languages in Manchester
While many languages in Manchester have at least a few hundred speakers, some are much less common in the city. According to the 2011 Census the languages Luganda, Maltese, Romani, Slovenian, and Afrikaans each have under 50 speakers. While Krio and Yiddish all had less than 15.
The last national census also identified a handful of languages with just one speaker including Manx Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Caribbean Creole.
The census also revealed 15 speakers of Oceanic languages and 2 speakers of American languages, but no further details were given to identify the languages.
However, a large part of the research done by the Multilingual Manchester Project included identifying rare languages and dialects spoken in the city. These included Chitrali, Konkai, Dagaare and Uyghur. They also discovered that the language Eleme is being spoken in Manchester. Eleme is an exceedingly rare language with only 3,000 speakers worldwide!
At Translate UK we love finding rare language speakers and are very excited to have such a wonderful resource for them so nearby.
How Language Has Affected The City
The diversity of language in Manchester affects every part of city life. From business, to schools, the council, and hospitals. Language skills are in high demand across a variety of job roles, including customer service and management roles in many businesses.
In Manchester schools two-thirds of children are bilingual and some of them can be seen here taking part in a project that celebrates the cities diversity. In higher education University is currently one of the highest ranked places in the UK to study linguistics. The University is also home to international students from over 160 countries, who were not included Multilingual Manchester Project’s language count.
If residents of the city are looking for an opportunity to celebrate their culture, they will have plenty of choice. From the Manchester Culture Awards which promotes diversity to the Manchester International Festival.
There is also Manchester Day which celebrates the city including its diverse culture. While it was unable to run last year, the participants from 2019 paints a picture of a multicultural multilingual city. A few of those who took part included the Ghanaian Union of Manchester, British Pakistani Cultural Association, Filipino Anglo Club, Manchester Malayalee Association, Manchester Chinese Centre, West African Dance Mania, Indian Association Manchester, and Colibri Mexican Folkdance UK.
Perhaps unsurprisingly we work frequently providing interpreters and translators in and around Manchester. Which is also where many of our linguists are based. So, if your near Manchester and need a linguist get in touch. Whether you are looking for a common or rare language we are likely to have someone near you.