How English Became the Common Global Language

Instructor Gideon of LetThemTalkTV explains why English became the common language all around the world, despite the fact that it almost died in the 12th Century.

But did you know that if we go back to the 12th century, English was on a life support machine? It was the third language in its own country. After French and Latin as a written language It had almost ceased to exist. So how did English a virtually extinct language from the fringes of Northern Europe rise up to become the global language?

It turns out that English has more in common with many different languages around the world.

English is a Germanic language. The same language group as German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, amongst others. So it shares a lot of features of these languages. But most of its vocabulary originates from Latin languages. …What this means is that anyone who knows a Germanic language or a romance language will already be familiar with a considerable amount of the English language. And that’s about a billion people excluding English, of course.

How English Almost Died

Gideon explained how a change of leadership almost killed English as we know it.

After 1066, the Anglo-Saxon nobility was replaced by a French nobility. The King and his entourage spoke French. Laws were written in French. Administration was conducted in Latin and later on in French. Education was in French and Latin. English became the third language in its own country after French and Latin. All across Europe.

How English Came Back

English was resurrected during the Hundred Years War, when England was at war with France.

The hundred Years War 1337 to 1453….At that time many people thought, well, you know, we’re at war with the French, why should we be speaking their language? The war played a significant role in instilling a sense of English national identity.

How Colonization Spread English Across the Globe

Gideon also talks about how the expansion of the British Empire led to the propagation of English around the world.

The Jamestown colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in America. … the British Empire expanded across the globe. English became a dominant language in India. Swathes of Africa and the Caribbean, Australia and other countries in India and in former British colonies of Africa. English has remained an official language. Often because these countries needed a common language for people of different native languages to communicate with one another. And English was a convenient choice.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.