Poland is one of the most linguistically homogeneous European countries; nearly 97% of Poland’s citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue. Elsewhere, ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine: Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania’s Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results); in Ukraine it is most common in the Lviv and Lutsk regions, while in Western Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority especially in the Brest and Grodno regions.
There are also significant numbers of Polish speakers among Polish emigrants and their descendants in many other countries, including Argentina, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, LebanonLuxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Peru, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, Uruguay and the United States.
In the United States, Polish Americans number more than 11 million (see: Polish language in the United States) but most of them cannot speak Polish fluently. According to the United States 2000 Census, 667,414 Americans of age 5 years and over reported Polish as the language spoken at home, which is about 1.4% of people who speak languages other than English or 0.25% of the U.S. population. The largest concentrations of Polish speakers reported in the census (over 50%) were found in three states: Illinois (185,749), New York (111,740) and New Jersey (74,663).
In Canada, there is a significant Polish Canadian population: there are 242,885 speakers of Polish according to the 2006 census, with a particular concentration in Toronto (91,810 speakers).
The geographical distribution of the Polish language was greatly affected by the border changes and population transfers that followed World War II. Poles settled in the “Recovered Territories” in the west and north, which had previously been mostly German-speaking. Some Poles remained in the previously Polish-ruled territories in the east which were annexed by the USSR, resulting in the present-day Polish-speaking minorities in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, although many Poles were expelled or emigrated from those areas to areas within Poland’s new borders. Meanwhile the flight and expulsion of Germans, as well as the expulsion of Ukrainians and resettlement of Ukrainians within Poland, contributed to the country’s linguistic homogeneity.