Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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The 2011 UK Census was the first ever to ask a question about language in England. The period during which the census was planned coincided with a period of intense politicisation of the language issue, which had previously not been a major point of controversy.

The census results showed that 98.3% of the adult population either spoke English as their ‘main language’, or could speak it well or very well. In 4% of households no adults spoke English as a main language. These statistics produced an intense media reaction focussed on the number of people who supposedly could not speak English, with some high-level misunderstandings about what the figures meant.

This paper discusses the pervasiveness in the census process of ideologies about language, and how an apparently honest attempt to collect information for service providers was used to justify anti-immigration discourse and the reduction of services for non-speakers of English.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bilingualism; census; England; multilingualism; sociolinguistics
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