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English language

From Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia written in simple English for easy reading.

Places where English is spoken.
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Places where English is spoken.
This language has its own Wikipedia Project.

The English language is a West Germanic language spoken in many countries around the world. With around 380 million native speakers, it is the third most spoken language in the world. As many as a billion people speak it as a second language. English is an influence on, and has been influenced by many different languages.


English began in England, a country on a large island in Europe. Germanic tribes (Saxons and Angles) spoke it; the name for this sort of English is Old English. The word "English" comes from "Englisc", and that comes from the name of the Angles - "Englas". Old English didn't sound or look very much like the English we speak today. If English speakers today were to hear or read a passage in Old English, they might understand a few words, but it would be very hard for most to understand what the passage is about.

The Germanic tribes came to England in small groups beginning around 449 AD. Many other people came to the island later and at different times, speaking different languages, and these languages mixed with Old English to make today's English.

From around 800 AD, many Danes and Norsemen came to the country. Their languages were similar to Old English, and English got many Norse loanwords.

After William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066 AD with his armies and became king, he brought his nobles, who spoke French, to be the new government. They stopped English from being taught in schools for a long time, and the language changed a lot, because it was mostly being spoken instead of written for about 300 years. English borrowed so many words from French at that time that it could be considered a different language, now called Middle English. Chaucer is a well known writer of Middle English. After more sound changes, Middle English became Modern English. Although the works of Shakespeare might seem like Middle English, they are actually considered modern.

English has continued to take new words from other languages, for example from Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Spanish. Because many scientists from different countries needed to talk to each other, they chose names for scientific things in the languages they all knew: Greek and Latin. Those words came to English, too, for example, photography ("photo-" means "light" "and "-graph" means "picture" or "writing", in Greek. A photograph is a picture made using light), or telephone. So, English is a combination of Old English (closely related to German and Dutch), Danish, Norse, French, Latin, Greek, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Spanish, and more words from even more languages!

Because England is on an island, the English people often travelled on the ocean. They went to many new countries in many parts of the world, and made new governments in some old countries. Partly because of this, English is an important language in many places today, for example in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, South Africa, and the United States, and not just England. Because the United Kingdom (where England is now in) and the United States have been so powerful and wealthy, many people find it helpful to learn English to communicate (talk to other people) in science, business, and diplomacy. We say that these people are learning English as an additional language, English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

Many famous stories and plays are in English. Shakespeare was a famous English writer of poems and plays. Today, many famous songs and movies (cinema films) use the English language.

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