Recently when news has been reported on television the viewer cannot fail to see that when an incident has occurred such as the riots in Istanbul and Cairo or political demonstrations in Rome, placards or signs have been in English as well as the local language. David Cockman, our guest speaker, was able to demonstrate how English has become such an important international language.
At the EU are representatives of 28 countries and one third of the staff in Brussels are employed as interpreters. However President Barosso addresses the EU Assembly in English. One in four people in the world speak some form of English.
English is one of the Indo- European families of languages and many words from Welsh to Sanskrit have much in common. With the arrival of the Anglo Saxons in England in the 4th and 5th centuries there occurred a gradual assimilation of culture and languages with the indigenous population. Our DNA would show today that we are 60% of German origin. Many words we use today sound similar but are spelt differently.
Then came the Vikings from Scandinavia and Denmark in the 8th and 9th centuries and once again occurred a process of assimilation.
The Norman invasion of 1066 meant that the elite spoke French in England for the next two centuries while the peasantry continued with pre- conquest language based on Germanic and Scandinavian languages. This led to different parts of the country often speaking different forms of English. The publication of the Authorized Bible
in 1611 during King James reign also ensured a copy was made available in every parish in the country. This fact plus the popularity and influence of Shakespeare’s plays also played a great part in helping to enlarge and standardize written English throughout the country even though it was spoken in different dialects.
By the 18th century there was a movement to standardize the way English was spoken and the way it was spoken in London was advocated by such writers as Jonathan Swift. In the 20th century there were advocates of RP, Queen’s English and that of the BBC. However there has been a movement towards some radio and TV presenters using local accents.
The global influence began in the 16th century with seeds sown by creation of Empire. This was accelerated with the advent of American English. Today this influence has led to international air traffic controllers communicating in English while foreign students coming to our universities is now a multi million pound industry The language of the internet is English and finally there is development of Chinglish often with hilarious consequences. Today there are over 360 million English speakers in China in a country that looks set to becoming a world superpower, one that sees the opportunity that English, no matter in what form it takes, will prove to be beneficial.
David Cockman delivered a very interesting and enjoyable talk and one that had many members present in stiches with laughter.
The next meeting is 5th October when we have our annual Open/Research morning.
Any enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or firstname.lastname@example.org