Main language and proficiency in English

Headlines

  • English is the main language of 94% of Surrey residents.
  • Polish and Chinese languages are the most common other languages.
  • 88.5% of people whose main language is not English can speak English well or very well.
  • 1,000 residents of Surrey cannot speak English at all.

Main Language

In Surrey, 94% of people aged 3 and over stated that their main language was English. Nearly 65,000 Surrey residents gave another language as their main language. The borough with the highest proportion of the English speakers was Tandridge (97.3%) and the lowest was Woking (89.9%).

Surrey has a higher proportion of English speakers than England as a whole, where 92% of the population stated that their main language was English.
Table 1: Main language

% English % not English Not English (number)
Surrey 94.1% 5.9% 64,831
Elmbridge 93.4% 6.6% 8,215
Epsom and Ewell 92.6% 7.4% 5,367
Guildford 92.6% 7.4% 9,800
Mole Valley 96.7% 3.3% 2,738
Reigate and Banstead 95.0% 5.0% 6,567
Runnymede 91.9% 8.1% 6,252
Spelthorne 93.6% 6.4% 5,849
Surrey Heath 94.8% 5.2% 4,298
Tandridge 97.3% 2.7% 2,194
Waverley 96.6% 3.4% 3,969
Woking 89.9% 10.1% 9,582
South East 94.2% 5.8% 481,423
England 92.0% 8.0% 4,068,830

Source: Office for National Statistics
Figure 1: Percentage of population whose main language is not English

Source: Office for National Statistics
Table 2: Languages with more than 1,000 speakers in Surrey

Polish 6,634
Chinese (including Mandarin Cantonese and others) 4,426
Spanish 3,247
Portuguese 3,056
French 3,017
Urdu 2,585
Italian 2,546
Arabic 2,394
Tagalog/Filipino 2,341
German 2,175
Nepalese 1,781
Panjabi 1,657
Bengali (With Sylheti and Chatgaya) 1,630
Russian 1,551
Tamil 1,425
Hungarian 1,395
Gujarati 1,329
Greek 1,295
Korean 1,283
Dutch 1,246

Source: Office for National Statistics

Proficiency in English

People who stated that their main language was not English were asked how well they could speak English. The options were: Very well, well, not well or not at all.
53.1% of Surrey residents whose main language is not English consider that they can speak English very well, and a further 35.4% can speak it well. Nearly 6,500 people cannot speak English well and a further 1,000 cannot speak English at all. The borough with the highest number of people with poor English skills is Woking where nearly 1,500 cannot speak English or can’t speak it well.

Non English speakers in Surrey have better English skills than non English speakers in England as a whole where 79.3% of people whose main language is not English can speak English well or very well.
Table 3: Proficiency in English of people whose main language is not English

% speak English very well % speak English well % speak English not well % cannot speak English Speak English not well (number) Cannot speak English (number)
Surrey 53.1% 35.4% 9.9% 1.5% 6,438 996
Elmbridge 56.9% 32.3% 9.2% 1.6% 755 131
Epsom and Ewell 51.4% 35.5% 11.1% 2.0% 597 107
Guildford 52.4% 39.0% 7.8% 0.8% 766 76
Mole Valley 53.6% 35.4% 9.9% 1.2% 270 32
Reigate and Banstead 55.6% 32.2% 10.4% 1.7% 686 114
Runnymede 53.9% 35.7% 9.4% 0.9% 587 59
Spelthorne 51.6% 36.2% 10.5% 1.6% 617 93
Surrey Heath 54.6% 34.6% 9.1% 1.7% 393 72
Tandridge 54.5% 35.9% 8.4% 1.2% 185 27
Waverley 54.6% 35.9% 8.1% 1.4% 322 56
Woking 48.5% 36.0% 13.1% 2.4% 1,260 229
South East 46.5% 37.4% 13.6% 2.4% 65,638 11,600
England 41.5% 37.7% 17.4% 3.3% 709,862 133,983

Source: Office for National Statistics
Figure 2: Number of people who cannot speak English well or not at all by Local Authority

Source: Office for National Statistics