Chances are you aren’t necessarily well informed on the history of the language you use on a daily basis. By the time you reached adulthood, language was just second nature. Adult English speakers have an average vocabulary of 20,000-30,000 words, but if put to the test, you might struggle to write down or define more than a few hundred words.
In this article, we will explore the roots of the shared language we use to communicate, tracing its history as far back as 450 AD. So, let’s track the evolution of the English language and discover what it can teach us about effective communication.
The history of the English language
- Old English (450-1100 AD)
- Middle English (1100-1500 AD)
- Modern English (1500 AD – Present Day)
How many people speak English around the world?
More than one billion people speak English across the globe. However, only 380 million speak it as their first language. This makes English the third most widely spoken language after Mandarin, which has more than one billion native speakers and Spanish, which has more than 400 million people that call it their native language.
What are the roots of English?
Old English originated circa 450 AD, when Germanic tribes began to migrate to England, as the Roman Empire started to collapse. These Germanic languages merged with existing dialects in England, and this early form of English persisted until the 11th century. At this time, English began to be influenced by Latin, Old Norse and Anglo-Norman French after the Norman Conquest in 1066. To say that Modern English is a melting pot of diverse ingredients is an understatement. This melting pot has bubbled away for almost two thousand years to create the rich stew of Modern English we speak today, with which we write this article.
When does the Modern English era begin?
You might be wondering how we get from the Norman Conquest to the language you speak daily. English from those days would be unintelligible to modern English speakers. The shared method of communication we all use today to talk to our loved ones or say good morning to a colleague comes from Modern English, which didn’t take root until circa 1500.
This era of English would be more comprehensible to people today, the chances are you read some English from the 1500s in your English literature class in school.
William Shakespeare wrote in early Modern English, and the King James bible a few decades later was published in a more refined form of Modern English.
Modern English as we know it came to be as widely spoken as it is today due to the influence of the British Empire in its colonies. The changes from an almost unrecognisable language to what we speak today is reflected by Modern English deciding to drop the second person pronouns “thou” and “ye”, retaining “you” instead, which of course we use regularly in day-to-day speech and writing.
The benefits of understanding the history of languages
For translators, there are some powerful benefits which can be gained from understanding the history of languages. Take Spain for example: León and part of Navarra, both ancient Iberian kingdoms which are now Spanish regions, have both lost their unique languages and are today mostly culturally at one with the rest of Castilla.
Contrast this with Galicia and the Basque Country; these areas of Navarra have both kept their own cultural identity and language intact. To this day, they retain a culture which is distinct from what we think of as Spanish culture. It’s often the case that, where there is a distinct language, there is a distinct culture. Take, for instance, the United Kingdom. There are fears in Wales that the people will lose touch with the nation’s history and culture due to declining numbers of Welsh speakers over time.
The advantages of partnering with a Bubbles Translator
A skilled translator will understand that, where there is a separate language, there is a cultural adaptation also, and that languages and cultures are separate again to countries .
Using our language translation services you’ll have access to language experts that understand the history of language and have a firm grasp on its evolution and the emerging trends of speech, grammar and syntax.