Unit 5.1

Collective Identity: Feelings and belonging to the social sphere: Shaping of a collective identity


Elements which help to form a collective identity

The United Kingdom is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Its pluralistic nature makes it hard to identify what it means to be British. Another problem is that some people think that English and British are synonymous, leaving out Welsh, Scottish and Irish identities. There are even voices that say it’s impossible to learn how to be British since it doesn’t exist.

  • Language:
    • The main language used in the United Kingdom is English.
    • But the countries forming the UK also have their own languages like Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.
    • Today there are three hundred different languages that are regularly spoken in London.
  • Collective customs:
    • Pub culture is rather strong in the whole UK.
  • Landscape:
    • Separation of the British Isles from Europe helped in creating the collective identity in the past.
  • Common historical past:
    • To understand what it means to be British you have to understand the history of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
    • National Identities in the past were separated. It is believed that after creating Union with Scotland, people started to think about themselves not only as English, Welsh, Scottish but also as the British.
    • Being British was also related to Protestantism.

Official and co-official languages

  • English is the official language of the United Kingdom, it is spoken by 98% of the population.
  • Welsh is an only Celtic language with official status. In Wales, 21% of the population can speak it.
  • Scots is also known as Lowland Scots and is spoken by 2.5 % of the population in Scotland. It is still debated if it is language or dialect of English.
  • Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language spoken by 1.7 % of the population in Scotland.
  • Irish is the language found in Northern Ireland where around 6 % of the population is bilingual in Irish and English. Only 0.2% of the Irish population use it as the main language.
  • Cornish is a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall. It used to be dead language but was reviewed. Now there are around 3,000 speakers of the Cornish language.

Institutions for the promotion and care of the language

  • Oxford University Press is a public organisation that inspire people to understand the importance of languages and promotes the development of language policies. It improves public understanding of language learning, the techniques and approaches for successful language teaching. They are creators of the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Bòrd na Gàidhlig works to promote Gaelic, and works in partnership with the Scottish Government, the people of Scotland and the Gaelic organizations to improve the status of the Scottish Gaelic language.
  • Welsh Language Commissioner is a role which aims to promote the use of Welsh language, facilitate the use of Welsh and making sure that Welsh is treated no less favourably than English.
  • Foras na Gaeilge is a public body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the island of Ireland. It was formerly a part of the Irish government.


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