According to the UK census in 2021, the estimated number of people who speak Welsh in Wales is 538,300, or 17.8% of the population. This number has decreased from 562,000 in 2011. In particular, fewer children and young people are speaking Welsh. Some people are worried about this [source].

However, according to the Welsh goverment’s Annual Population Survey, there were 892,000 speakers of Welsh in 2021, or 29.5% of the population, and this figure increased by 9,200 since the previous year. 448,400 people reported that they spoke Welsh every day, while 158,400 speak it weekly, 228,600 less often, and the rest never spoke it.

There is a big difference between these results. Census figures for the number of speakers of a language are not entirely reliable. Maybe people who rarely or never speak Welsh didn’t tick the relevant box on the census form. Maybe the Population Survey is not entirely reliable either, and the real number of Welsh speakers is somewhere in between.

The Welsh government has a goal of there being 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, and would like to see all children in Wales education through Welsh eventually.

Noson Werin yn Y Glôb ym Mangor. Llun gan Marian Brosschot
Noson Werin yn Y Glôb ym Mangor. Llun gan Marian Brosschot

I live in an area of Wales where Welsh is widely spoken and use it regularly. Last night, for example, I took part in a Noson Werin, a Welsh music session (see photo above), where we spoke and sung mainly in Welsh, in a pub where most people speak Welsh or are learning it. There were Welsh speakers / learners there from Wales, England, Finland, the USA, Germany, Spain and Denmark. I don’t know how common this is in other parts of Wales.

One thought on “Census

  1. We have a separate Census in the Isle of Man. According to the most recent one (2021), there were 2,223 people claiming a working knowledge of Gaelg (Manx Gaelic), or 2.64% of the resident population of 84,069.

    According to a press article on the UK Census that I read recently, eight people in England and Wales claimed to speak Manx Gaelic as a first language (!) – I suspect that this response was intended as a joke, since no-one in this Island claims this.

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