The English language, past and present

Here are a few historical facts about English and how it has evolved. English descends from the language spoken by the Germanic tribes known as the Angles (which is where the word 'English' comes from). The Saxons and Jutes had settled in Great Britain during the fifth century A.D. After William the Conqueror's victory at the Battle of Hastings over the Saxons during the sixth century, he settled in Great Britain and declared that his language, Norman (an Oïl language related to old French), would be the official language of the court. In so doing, he profoundly changed the English language. The biggest changes to the English language date back to the 16th century, when modern English was born.


The English language today

The political power and successive waves of colonization carried out by the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries combined with the political, military and economic influence of the United States have made English the most important geolinguistic entity in the world. English is spoken by over 400 million people in the world. Two hundred million of them live in North America and 68 million in the British Isles. English is the mother tongue of 15 million people in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and the second language of millions of Indians. It was estimated in 2000 that more than a billion people are learning English. English reigns supreme as the lingua franca of the worlds of business , culture, communications and the internet.


English around the world

English is the official language of the United Kingdom (55/58 million), Canada (14.1/27.5 million), the Republic of Ireland (3.6/3.9 million), Australia (15.6/17.6 million), and New Zealand (3.2/3.5 million).
For the record, the most widely used languages in the European Union are English (51% of the population speaks this language), German (32%), French (26%), Italian (16%), Spanish (15%), Polish (10%) and Russian (7%).



The English language and its (attempted) derivatives

Since the English language is very widely used, there have been several attempts to simplify the language:

Basic English by Charles Kay Ogden: this is a very restricted subset (850 words) of the English language.

Special English , the English used by Voice of America: it includes only 1500 words. It is spoken slowly, has a limited number of words and there are no idiomatic expressions.

Basic phonetic English

Purely European basic English : words that sound American are excluded in favor of more Oxfordian Anglo-Saxon words.

Simplified English , which is used in the aerospace industry.


There are also two simplified versions of the English language known as ' Globish ':

- The Globish language proposed by Madhukar Gogate in 1998 simplifies the spelling and pronunciation of English.
- The Globish language proposed by Jean-Paul Nerrière in 2004 uses only the minimum amount of vocabulary required to be understood by those who use English as a lingua franca.

Sources: | | British Council | Wikipedia