Statistics on languages in Scotland

Attitudes towards language learning in schools in Scotland

  • Most people in Scotland (89%) think that learning a language other than English in school from the age of five is important. This was regardless of people’s age, educational qualifications, or socio-economic status.
  • The most common languages that people in Scotland think are appropriate for children in their area to learn are Western European languages.

Highlights from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, carried out by Scotcen Social Research and published in February 2016.  Find out more in the extract of these findings.

This was accompanied by a Scottish Government Press Release.

Entries and awards for national qualifications in languages

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland. For the most recent data on all qualifications and subjects, including data on entries and awards for qualifications in languages, please refer to the following on the SQA website:

Language Trends in Scotland

SCILT publish an annual analysis of published SQA statistics on language trends in Scottish schools.

For access to Trends from previous years, please contact SCILT.

Language teaching

For information on how many Secondary specialist language teachers there are in Scotland, please refer to the data from the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, No 6 (Scottish Government, December 2015):

Languages in the community

Data from the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, No 7 (Scottish Government, December 2016) indicate the top 5 home languages in 2015, other than English, were Polish, Urdu, Scots, Punjabi and Arabic. A total of 149 languages were spoken as the main home language by pupils in publicly funded schools in Scotland. 49,417 pupils were identified whose main home language was neither English, Gaelic, Scots, Doric nor Sign Language. The greatest number of these pupils attend schools in Glasgow.

The statistics published by the Registrar General for Scotland on the Scotland’s Census website, present details from the 2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion, from national to local level.

Navigate to the Standard Outputs menu and select ‘Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion’ to access the following tables:

  • Gaelic language skills by sex by age 
  • English language skills by sex by age 
  • Language other than English used at home by sex by age

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