18. What is your main language? (If you live in England)

Important information:

If you are completing the census online please use the online census guidance.

Why we ask this question

Your answer helps your community by showing local service providers where there's a need for language services. These services are for people in your area whose main language is not English. For example:

  • the NHS may need to provide translation and interpretation services
  • a local authority might need to improve the availability of English language lessons
  • all public bodies need to decide how they make information accessible to a wide range of users in their area

Information about the number of British Sign Language (BSL) users helps your local authority. It helps them plan services and develop policies to meet the needs of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The census first asked this question in 2011.

Only give one answer.

If you're not sure what your main language is, think about the language you use most naturally. It could be the language you use at home.

If you select "Other", you will be asked how well you speak English in the next question.

Sign languages

If a sign language (such as British Sign Language) is your main language, select "Other" and give the name of the sign language.

Multiple languages

If you have two or more main languages and one of them is English, select "Other" and give the name of the language other than English that you prefer to use.

If you have two or more main languages not including English, give the name of the language that you prefer to use.

Children and babies

If a child is aged three years or older and not yet speaking, select the main language you expect them to use when they start to speak.

If a child is aged two years or under, you don't need to answer this question for them.

Why there's only a choice between "English" and "Other"

English is listed because it's the official language common to the whole of the UK.

It's important that we know how many people don't have English as their first language and what their main language is.

This helps to identify the number of people who might need additional help when accessing or using public services.

Important information:

Not enough space

You can abbreviate languages with long names, for example "BSL" instead of "British Sign Language". If you run out of space, enter as much as you can. Only enter one character per box.