|The history of the English language
I would like to talk about the orgin and history of todays English.
I will start about 5000 B.C. (Before Christ). At that time a tribe called the Indo-Europeans discovered and spread through central Europe until 3000 B.C. A small part of them were the Celts. They travelled to Britain and brought their own language with them. 2000 years later the Romans arrived in Britain, and Latin was brought into England. 410 A.D. (Anno Domini) the Angles and Saxons came from Holland, Denmark and Germany. Their language was called “Englisc“ ==> old English. Today you can still find some of their words in the dictionary.
For example: sheep, earth, work, field, ...
597 A.D. St.Augustine brought Christianity, and so Latin, back. Between 750 and 1050 the Vikings took their language which was called “Norse“ from Scandinavia to the island. There are still some Norse words in English today like get, wrong, leg, ...
After the Battle of Hastings at 1066 between the French Duke William and the English king Harold, French words became an important part of English. In the next 200 years Old English became Middle English and was solidified in 1340 by Geoffrey Chaucer, the first great English writer.
In the next century the grammar and spelling was fixed by the invention of printing.
Now English was prepared for a new development:
1558 The Elizabethan age began and with it the population of the English language. Both explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh took it on their journeys to the new world (America) and the West Indies. They started the export of the English language.
Another important person in this century was, of course, William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616). Although English was a very young language, Shakespeare had a vocabulary of about 30.000 words.
The export of the language went on when in 1620, the Mayflower sailed to America and brought the first English settlers to the new country.
In 1788, Australia was also settled by the British. Many of them were criminals because there was a lot of crime in the eighteenth century and the English prisons were full.
Of course “slave trade“ was another important part of the history of English.
For 150 years British ships took west African people to America and the West Indies before it stopped in 1807. These “slaves“ were the first black Americans.
Between 1800 and 1900 Britain became the richest country in the world.
Its empire, controlled by Queen Victoria (1837-1901), included many foreign countries like India, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa.
Now the Engish language was important for every continent, but of course it changed and they all had their own accents and vocabulary. English was growing internationally.
In the middle of the 20th century, many of these countries became independent but still stayed friends with Britain. Today some of them are in the Commonwealth (an international club of English-speaking countries).
American English started a new chapter in the history of English:
For 150 years America was a British colony. In the War of Independence in 1776 it became a free, independent country. Its first president was George Washington.
In the nineteenth century, the time of cowboys, Indians, gold and railways, thousands of pioneers travelled west. Between 1800 and 1900 sixteen million Europeans began a new life in the USA. Most of them came from Italy, Germany, Ireland, Scandinavia and Central Europe. All of them brought new expressions to American English.
By the 1950´s, America was the English-speaking superpower.
Today this language is growing faster than ever before. There are thousands of nineteenth and twentieth-century words. They come from the pioneers of those days, scientists and teenagers from south east-Asia and central America.
English at work and play:
Politics: English is the language of summit meetings and the United Nations.
Pop music: Rock and roll began in America in the 1950s. Ever since, English has been the language of rock and roll and the following pop.
TV and Film: America exports thousands of films every year. Some countries show these films and programmes with sub-titles. In other countries there are actors who speak the characters´ dialogue. This is called ´dubbing´.
Business: Many European multi-national companies have, for example German, Spanish, French and Italian workers. So they use English instead of four languages.
Travel: Every pilot and ship’s captain has to speak English. There is even an international travel alphabet. This makes communication by radio as easy and clear as possible.
The age of TV and satellites helped this language become something even bigger
for example, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). It was founded in 1922 and started with their first international radio programmes in 1932. Today it’s one of the biggest corporations, which broadcasts sports, drama, music, current affairs, science and comedy for 24 hours every day to many countries in the world.
English language teaching (E.L.T.)
There are English language schools all over the world. They are specialized in teaching English correctly. These schools can be attended not only by students and teenagers but also by businessmen, thought the most important group is young people. In the summer months, thousands of teenagers travel to Britain and stay with families to improve their English style, visiting museums and learning much about this country.
Accents and dialects:
Now I would like to tell you something about the different forms of English around the United Kingdom. Not everyone in the U. K. speaks the same kind of English.
Between Land’s End in Cornwall and John O´Groats (in Scotland) there are a lot of different accents and dialects. There are even three completely separate languages. Here is a quick guide to English around the United Kingdom.
The official accent of the English is the accent of the Royal Family and the BBC news. Less than 5% of English-speaking people have this R. P. (Received Pronunciation) accent.
In London, for example I would like to point out the first British dialect.
People from the east of London are called Cockneys. The cockney accent is one of the most famous in the U.K. There is already a second form of the cockney dialect. It is called “rhyming slang“. I would like to show you some examples.
Word Cockney Rhyming Slang Example_____________
stairs apples and pears He went up the apples and pears.
face boat race What an ugly boat race you’ve got!
car jam jar My jam jar is five years old now.
But there are many more dialects, like “Geordie“, spoken in Newcastle.
People from Liverpool speak “Scouse“ and in Birmingham they speak ´Brummy´.
For example: In Liverpool the people call a sandwich a “butty“.
In Birmingham street becomes “strate“.
Not to be forgotten are the three other languages in Great Britain:
· Cornish (Cornwall)
· Welsh (Wales)
· Gaelic (In parts of western Ireland and northern Scotland)
Today, only a few thousand people speak each of this languages.
Very important, especially for London’s housewives, are of course the soap operas.
The most popular is called East Enders, which is about cockneys and their neighbourhood.
The Queen’s Speech every December is also an important part of Christmas for millions of people.
One billion people speak English. That’s 20% of the world’s population. 400 million people speak English as their first language. For the other 600 million people, English is their second language or a foreign language. The number of Chinese people learning English is bigger than the population of the USA. 80% of all information in the world’s computers is in English.
More than 80% of all English vocabulary comes from other languages.
Now I will list some countries where English is the first language:
· The United States
People in Jamaica and India changed the standard English in their own slang. In Jamaica the day-to-day language is “Creole“, the English most reggae singers use. It is not just a local dialect, it’s the real Jamaican language.
In today’s India you hear first “Hindi“, and the other official language is English. Indian English developed throught mistakes made in the early years when India was a British colony. They are now a part of the Indian English.
So English has slowly become more than one language.
That does not mean the end of standard English. In fact, it means the opposite. People will still need standard English for international communication in the twenty-first century. The future is not local or standard, it’s local and standard.