Multilingual Ireland: the top 10 foreign languages

In Ireland, English and Irish are the official languages, but with the increasing number of migrants, as well as the access to other cultures we have nowadays, it has become very usual to hear languages from all over the planet every day.

Whether you are planning on learning a new language and you want someone to practice with, or you are looking to find people who speak your mother tongue in Ireland, you may be wondering what languages are the most prominent today.

The Central Statistics Office collects data regarding languages used in the country, and their last census shows which ones are the most common as first and second languages. More than half a million people speak a language different from the official ones, and learning a second language has also gained popularity among the Irish citizens.

Combining the two groups – native speakers and language learners – we are left with the following list for the top 10 foreign languages spoken in Ireland:

Child learning languages
French is the first choice for language learners.

1. French

The most spoken foreign language is French. It is also the most chosen as a second language in Ireland, having even more people learning it than native speakers. Even though the first country that comes to our mind when we think of French is France, there are many other countries that have it as their official language, with no less than 76 million native speakers around the globe.

2. Spanish

The second position goes to Spanish, another popular choice for second language learners. Spanish is also the second in the number of native speakers worldwide, after Chinese. You can use it all over Hispanic America and Spain, but you can also find it in Equatorial Guinea, and it is even used by the administration in some parts of the US.

3. German

In third, we find German. This language shares many roots with English, but it is a bit more complex in grammar. It is official, or co-official in seven European countries, but spoken in more territories. Also, native speakers can be found in some parts of Africa, South America, and Oceania.

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The most used foreign language as a mother tongue is Polish.

4. Polish

Next is Polish, which is fourth in the list, but holds the position of the most spoken as a mother tongue right after English and Irish. You can speak it mainly in Poland and its surrounding countries, and in some other parts of the World, such as the American continent.

5. Arabic

Following Polish, we find Arabic, which is the first non-European originary language to appear in the ranking, and the only one that appears in the top 10. Though Arabic consists of a number of dialects, there is one of them called Modern Standard Arabic, which is the one taught to language learners generally.

6. Italian

In the sixth position, we find Italian, whose speakers in Ireland are primarily second language learners rather than natives. You could speak Italian in some parts of Europe – especially in Italy and its neighbouring areas – but it is also found in specific places scattered around the globe.

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Lithuanian speakers are mainly natives.



7. Lithuanian

Lithuanian appears seventh, being slightly less known than the previously mentioned languages. You can find the great majority of native speakers in Lithuania. However, the community of speakers in Ireland is mainly native, with only a few learners.

8. Latvian

The eight place belongs to Latvian, which shares many roots with Lithuanian, both of them being located in the same geographical area. After Polish, it is the second most spoken by native speakers in Ireland, but it seems like it is not very popular among language learners just yet.

9. Dutch

Dutch stands ninth on the list. There are slightly more people learning this language than native speakers. It comes principally from the Netherlands and Belgium, and it can also be heard in Suriname, the Caribbean area, and parts of Africa – Afrikaans is actually a daughter language to Dutch.

10. Slovenian

Similar to the case of Dutch, we find that there are a little less native speakers of Slovenian than second language learners. This language, with its many dialects, is mainly spoken in Slovenia and its adjacent territories. It is recognised in small parts of Austria and Italy, and spoken by a few in Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia.

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Multilingualism opens many doors.

Now you know which languages are the most common here in Ireland, you could give it a try and learn something new, while meeting new people. Maybe today is the time for you to start as there are many ways to learn; from books, to apps, or even finding people on social media and language websites. Multilingualism is a tool that opens many doors for us and helps us see things from a different perspective, allowing us to discover how others think and see the world.

Julia Villanueva
Julia Villanueva

Spaniard living in Ireland, passionate about literature, learning languages, and knowing different cultures.

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