A Hint of History

Do you think you know English? Well, can you read this?

Hwæt! We Gardena         in geardagum,
þeodcyninga,         þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas         ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing         sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum,         meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas.         Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden,         he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum,         weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc         þara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade         hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan.

If I told you this was English, would you believe me? Well, it is! 

This text is an excerpt from Beowulf, a classic Old English text, written around A.D. 1000. Old English, however, was “born” much earlier than that. When 3 Germanic tribes—the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes—came to Britain in A.D. 449, their 3 dialects formed what we now call Old English. The Anglo-Saxons have a rich history of warriors, epic battles, and triumph. Many stories were passed down by word of mouth rather than by writing. Beowulf is great example—and a rare story that was written down—of the type of poetry that was alive in that day.

Old English was spoken among the Anglo-Saxons until the Normans invaded Britain in A.D. 1066. After this time, English changed from a primarily German-based language to a language full of French and Scandinavian words. English was a very flexible language, borrowing words from different languages wherever it was spoken. Have you ever wondered why English has so many words from different languages?

English changed rapidly from the first time it was spoken until the late 1400s. When the printing press was invented by Gutenberg, the changes in English slowed down. Writers like Shakespeare were able to preserve their work—and the English language—when they could print what they wrote.

Today, English is spreading across the world. It has become a global language used for trade, business, science, technology, and education. English has come a long way from the time of Beowulf and is one of the most popular languages to study in the world.

To read more about the history of English, visit the Oxford Dictionary.

To learn more about studying English at Nomen Global, visit our website!

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