English Language: History

The term “English” is derived from Anglisc, the speech of the Angles—one of the three Germanic tribes that invaded England during the fifth century. The English language is the primary language of several countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and many of its former colonies, and the United States, and the second language in a number of multilingual countries, including India, Singapore, and the Philippines.

It’s an official language in several African countries as well, such as Liberia, Nigeria, and South Africa, but is spoken worldwide in more than 100. It’s learned around the world by children in school as a foreign language and often becomes a common denominator between people of different nationalities when they meet while traveling, doing business, or in other contexts.

According to Christine Kenneally in her book “The First Word,” “Today there are about 6,000 languages in the world, and half of the world’s population speaks only 10 of them. English is the single most dominant of these 10. British colonialism initiated the spread of English across the globe; it has been spoken nearly everywhere and has become even more prevalent since World War II, with the global reach of American power.”

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