The English Language


Marina Santee and Adam Navis look at the history and future of the world's first global language - English!

Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Marina Santee

Voice 2

And I’m Adam Navis. This programme uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

It is about 1500 years old. It started in one country but is now spread around the world. Hundreds of millions of people use it every day. In fact, we are using it right now. What is it? The English language.

Voice 2

Today’s Spotlight is on the history of the English Language. How did it begin? How has it changed? What will it be like in the future?

Voice 1

The English language started life in, no surprise here, England. This was in about the fifth century. The language was a mix of different languages spoken by a number of local tribes. These tribes had all invaded Britain from northern Europe. One of these tribes was the Angles. The Angles spoke a language called Englisc. This is where the name England and English come from.

Voice 2

The kind of English spoken at this time is called Old English. However Old English is very different to the English people speak today. It sounds like this:

Voice 3

ρa wæs Hroðgare heresped gyfen, wiges weorðmynd, þæt him his winemagas georne hyrdon, oðð þæt seo geogoð geweox, magodriht micel.

Voice 1

This is a poem called Beowulf. It was written about one thousand years ago in Old English. A teacher from Glasgow University is reading it here. As you can hear, Old English is almost impossible for modern English speakers to understand.

Voice 1

In the year 1066, England was invaded again. This time the invaders were from northern France. When they settled in England, their French language mixed with English. This developed the English language even more. Old English changed to become what is called Middle English. But even this English was very different to the English people use today.

Voice 4

To be or not to be, that is the question ...

Voice 2

This is a famous line written by William Shakespeare. This writer had a big influence on the English language. He invented almost two thousand English words. Many of his words and lines are still used in English today.

Voice 1

Shakespeare lived about four hundred years ago. By this time, English was more similar to the language it is today. However it was written in different ways. People would spell words with different letters and different orders of letters. Even Shakespeare spelled his own name in different ways.

Voice 2

But the printing of books helped to change this. Before people could print books, there was no right way to spell. But printing meant thousands of books could be produced that were exactly the same. Many of these books were printed in the same city – London. So London’s way of spelling became common. As printed books became more popular around the country, an official way of spelling was developed.

Voice 1

One of the first English language books to be printed was an English translation of the Christian Bible. This also influenced the English language. People speaking today still sometimes use sentences from this translation of the Bible.

Voice 2

Over the following centuries the English language continued to develop. More and more words were added to the language. It is difficult to know exactly how many English words there are today. One of the most popular English word books is The Oxford English Dictionary. It describes over six hundred thousand [600,000] words. However, native English speakers will probably only know between 25,000 and 50,000 of these words.

Voice 1

Part of the reason for the growth of English is that it has spread around the world. Many thousands of English words have been added from other languages. For example – the word “ketchup’. This word comes from Malaysia. Ketchup is a red liquid used to make food taste better. It is made from tomatoes – a small red fruit that is eaten as a vegetable. The word tomato comes from the Spanish language.

Voice 2

The way the word “tomato’ is spoken is also interesting.

Voice 5

I come from the USA, so I say “tom–ay–toe’.

Voice 4

But I live in the UK. Here, we say “tom–ah–toe’

Voice 2

This is one of the small things that is different between how the British and Americans speak English. There are also a few words that they use differently.

Voice 4

I live in a small property that is part of a larger building. Here in Britain we call this a ‘flat’.

Voice 5

But in the USA we call it an “apartment’.

Voice 1

Some people in Britain now say “apartment’ too. This is because the American way of speaking English is influencing the way the British speak it. American English is becoming more popular all over the world. Film, television and the Internet have all helped the spread of American English.

Voice 2

Another influence on the English language is culture. The language has been changed in a number of small ways by different people’s cultures. Words that are common in one area can be unusual in another area.

Voice 1

In India, for example, English speakers use the word “godown’. This is a very large building used to store goods. It is an English word, but it is not used in Britain, America or most other parts of the world.

Voice 2

Estimates say that about 380 million people have English as their native language. But about two times as many use English as a second, or foreign language. So, English is not just the language of traditionally English speaking countries. People around the world are now helping to define the English language and shape its future.

Voice 1

But what future will that be? No one knows how English will grow and change. Many experts believe that more and more people will choose to speak English. This will help people around the world understand each other. English is already the official language of many international organisations and businesses.

Voice 2

However, many people do not want English to become more popular. They are worried that children could stop learning their local language and learn English instead. They say that language is very important for people’s culture. If local languages were to die out, then this could damage many cultures around the world. So, in the future it could be important for people to learn both English and their native language.

Voice 1

English has grown from a few tribes on an island in Europe, to the world’s first global language. The future of the English language will not depend on the nations who first owned the language. Instead the millions of people learning the language today could be the people who shape its future.

Voice 2

What do you think about the English language? How important do you think it will be in the future? As always, you can e-mail us with your thoughts or questions. Our e-mail address is radio @ english dot net. Computer users can also find more Spotlight programmes on our website, at http://www.radio.english.net. This programme is called, “The English Language”.

Voice 1

The writer and producer of today’s programme was Steve Myersco. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. Thank you for listening today, goodbye.

Comments


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trangchelsea
said on January 11, 2010

I love your voice, Marina Santee :)

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banana
said on January 15, 2010

I also love your voice,Adam Navis..

About English language, It is my foreign language..I speak Thai in my country,Thailand so it’s rather hard for me to learn it and it takes a long time to absorb and understand…until now I still not good at it (so far so good ).I have no chance to speak with native-English speaker..but I try to use it in my daily life by reading listening English podcast because I know that English is an important for my career and it can open my eyes for the world so wide.

please pray for me too :) banana

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qalbi110
said on January 17, 2010

splendid program with outstanding voices of readers.

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LeoNguyen
said on February 13, 2010

To trangchelsea: Are you original Vietnamese or Vietnamese oversea?

To banana:I understand how you feel. Not only you, a Thailand, learn E so hard, but also in other countries when E is not a native language or a second language. However, do not worry about this, we have TV, Internet, Satellite TV, newspaper, .v.v… so you will have more chance to improve your E from now.
It’s just differences in our voices because we have our own language, this thing makes the E more diversified, wonderful.
I hope that you will be good at E in future.

Your Sincerely.