English originated in England and is widely spoken in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also an official language of India, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, etc. English is the first choice of foreign language in most other countries of the world. It is estimated that about a third of the world’s population, some two billion persons, now use English.
The English language is not as old as other languages, in fact, it was developed from other languages between the mid-5th century and 7th century AD. English has evolved continuously with generations of speakers undergoing major changes over time. Modern English shares many words with some European languages, for example, ‘’Good Morning” in English is “Guten Morgen” in German. See how similar they are!
The Normans (people from Normandy, France) have invaded England in 1066 and brought many of their words in the English language! When the French-speaking Normans occupied England and became its ruling class, they brought their speech with them, adding a lot of French and Latin vocabulary to the English language previously spoken there. Today we call that language ‘Old English’. Example: ‘advance’ came from the Old French word avancer.
Old English might be difficult to understand, but if we know some German it would seem familiar! That’s because Old English belongs to the Germanic language family, first brought to Great Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Germanic dialects they spoke in Britain came to be known as Anglo-Saxon.
Viking invaders in the 8th to 11th centuries added more of the Old Norse (Norwegian) into the mix! Many other languages have also played a role in shaping Modern English! This led to some new accents, dialects and new words! After the sixth century, German words starting with ‘p’ has shifted to a ‘pf’ sound while the Old English counterparts kept the ’p’ unchanged. Words that have ‘sk’ sounds in Swedish developed a ‘sh’ sound in English, words like skirt, etc still exist in English but they trace their roots from Swedish. See how inter-connected languages are!
We can find the same systematic similarities, or correspondences, between related words in different Indo-European branches. Comparing English and Latin, we notice that English has ‘t’ and ‘f’ whereas Latin has ‘d’ and ‘p’ instead, respectively, at the start of words. Some of English’s more distant relatives include Hindi, Persian, and the Celtic languages!
We still don’t know the origin of these ancient languages in-depth and there are many mysteries but the fact that billions of people around the world are speaking the same words shaped by 6000 years of history! That itself is amazing!