Developing

England and Wales' top languages? English and Polish

By Alex Stevenson

The second most used language in England and Wales is now Polish, figures out today confirm.

Over half a million people said Polish was their main language in the 2011 census, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That reflects the broad wave of immigration from eastern Europe which took place in the last decade.

The data released today revealed the 546,000 Polish speakers are now well ahead of other non-English languages, which included 273,000 Panjabi speakers and 269,000 Urdu speakers.

There are now 4.2 million people aged over three years old with a main language other than English. Of these, around 900,000 (21%) cannot speak English well or very well.

Research published last summer suggested Polish children are actually improving standards in UK schools, despite their initial lack of English language skills.

The LSE's Centre for Economic Performance suggested the children of immigrants from eastern Europe are better educated and have a better work ethic than native children - and improve the results of native pupils.

Positive impacts of immigration are unlikely to hold much water among concerned voters, however, as the country faces the impact of another tranche of new arrivals.

Immigration is once again becoming politically sensitive as the Home Office confronts another potential surge of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania next year.

After coming into office in 2010 the coalition quickly moved to introduce an English language test for immigrants coming to Britain to marry or join their partner.

Earlier this month the coalition's midterm review pledged to require all settlement applicants to hold an intermediate level English language qualification.