Guy Lansley, a geographer from the University College London, has created a series of maps based on the Census carried out by the Office for National Statistics in 2011 and published at the beginning of 2013. The maps are available in the Datablog of The Guardian and show the distribution of foreign language speakers in the multilingual city of London.
Map Making Process
These maps were based on a colour coding system which classified the different languages into family groups. All languages other than English were mapped to analyse linguistic diversity of foreign language speakers in a city with more than eight million inhabitants. The questions did not tackle the issue of English proficiency or bilingualism in London and that information was not represented in the maps at all. Individuals who were interviewed were asked about their main language, the one they used the most or considered most important, together with other related questions. The answers reflect the inhabitants’ abilities to preserve their own language and pass it on to the younger generations.
In total, 4.1 million people reported the use of a foreign language as their main communicative means in England and Wales, and nearly half of those citizens were located in the city of London. Around 690,000 citizens in the city of London reported using a European language as their main language, probably a direct consequence of proximity.
According to the census, the second most pervasive group of foreign languages spoken in England and Wales is made up of Asian languages, with more than 500,000 speakers. Out of this total, 100,000 were specifically from East Asia. Finally, 130,000 reported speaking a language from the African continent.
An interesting fact can be observed when looking at the maps: the distribution of the different languages is generally divided into zones, with each language family occupying a specific area in the city of London. There is a large Turkish community located in Enfield, a Polish community in Ealing, a Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, an Arabic community in North Kensington and Westbourne Green and a French community located in South Kensington and Fulham. The distribution of languages is probably a consequence of residential segregation in the city.