With over 58 million speakers, English is the de facto national language of the United Kingdom, meaning that it is not recognized as the official language by law, but simply due to the fact that the country overwhelmingly speaks the language. It wasn’t always this way, however: for a few centuries after the Norman Invasion of 1066, French was the primary language spoken by the government and the upper class, whereas English was mainly present among the lower classes. Today, over 98% of UK residents speak English, while only 31% speak at least two languages, making the UK the third least-likely European country to speak a foreign language. Despite the fact that English has a clear linguistic dominance in the UK, it is far from the only language spoken by its residents, with a number of languages and dialects having shaped the country due to its proximity to Europe and long history of colonialism. English is most strongly represented in England, despite being spoken nearly everywhere in the country, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Beyond the English Isles: A Diverse Tapestry of Indigenous and Immigrant Languages

The areas where minority languages are most likely to be encountered are Wales and northern Scotland, which have their own regional languages. Before the French or the Germanic people came to the British Isles, there were certain languages spoken by the people already, and a few of them still exist in various forms to this day. One of these is the Scots language, which is the most popular language after English, spoken by 1.5 million people in Scotland. People who speak Scots generally learned it as a second language (with the first being English), however Scots is kept as it contributes to the national identity of Scotland. After Scots, the most commonly spoken language, with 560,000 speakers, is Welsh. Welsh is the only language in the UK which has a legal status, and it is treated as equal to English in the country, meaning that it’s used by the government and all public services have signs in both languages. Only 19% of Wales’ population actually speaks Welsh, however, as compared to the 99% of those who speak English, with the number of Welsh speakers actually declining. Due to the law, however, it is unlikely that Welsh is ever going to go completely extinct. Some of the other minor indigenous languages are Angloromani, Scottish Gaelic, Shelta, Irish and Cornish.

Bridging Cultures: The Lively Linguistic Medley of the UK’s Immigrant Communities

Along with these, the UK is home to 4.2 million speakers of various immigrant languages, due to the fact that the country has been a hub of immigration in Europe for as long as it has existed, particularly for people from regions of India and Pakistan. The biggest immigrant language is Polish, however, with over half a million speakers. The reason for this is largely due to the opening of borders to Poland after the country joined the European Union in 2004. In the following years, the UK stayed very open to immigrants, leading to an influx of other languages spoken in the country. The next most-spoken immigrant languages all come from India and Pakistan: Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati. Again, this is mainly due to England’s strong presence in India during the 19th and 20th centuries. The other most-spoken languages in the UK after that include Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.

In the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the official language at the national and official level is Korean, with about 80 million people around the world who can speak Korean. Although its origins are debatable, the most widely accepted thought is that the Korean language belongs to the Altaic family of languages, a macro-family that includes the Tungusic, Mongolian, and Turkic families.

Korean: An Altaic Linguistic Marvel

Several languages can be heard across South Korea, such as Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. Korean, unsurprisingly, is the most commonly heard language, the standard version of which is understood throughout the entire country. Korean is vastly different from Western languages, which can make it tricky to learn even a few key words and phrases.

Hangul: Korea’s Ingenious Phonetic Script

Written Korean uses a phonetic system called Hangul (Hangeul), which stacks sounds into blocks which represent syllables, making it fairly easy to get a hang of, despite its uniqueness. Hangul is the official writing system of Korea, invented by King Sejong the Great in 1443 in order to make the language more accessible and easier for larger population to learn, particularly those with little education. Prior to the creation of Hangul, Koreans primarily used Classical Chinese (Hanja) for writing during the ancient times. Due to this, more than half of the Korean words today have actually originated from Chinese. Even though Chinese loan words and Korean-originated words have always co-existed, the Chinese loan words gained dominance and led to the complete erasure of a lot of the native Korean equivalents.

Different dialects are spoken in different areas of South Korea, such as the Gyeongsang dialect which is spoken in the south of the country, around Busan and Daegu, and which sounds quite rough compared to standard Korean. However, despite the slight differences, standard Korean will be understood almost everywhere in the country. Other dialects spoken in South Korea include the Seoul dialect (Gyeonggi), the Yeongseo dialects, the Chungcheong dialects, the Jeolla dialects, and the Jeju dialect.

Multilingualism in Contemporary South Korea

English is spoken by many South Koreans, and the government has been working on improving the levels of English classes across the country. However, Koreans often don’t have the chance to actually practice English despite taking classes, which is why they might struggle with understanding English in actual conversation. This is more likely to occur in rural areas as opposed to major cities, such as Seoul, where English comprehension is unlikely to be an issue.

Another widely spoken language in South Korea is Chinese, particularly Mandarin and Cantonese. However, the use of Hanja – the practice of Chinese characters being used to write Korean words – is more likely to be encountered.

Apart from Chinese, Japanese may also be spoken by some older people in South Korea. This is particularly common in Busan at the south of the country, where, due to the geographical proximity to Fukuoka in Japan, a large number of Japanese speakers can be found.