15 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About The English Language

Perhaps in almost every corner of the world, you may find at least a few people who are able to say basic English sentences. That's not a surprise. The English language has a long and rich history that influenced its use and popularity around the world.

From the days when the British Isles were attacked by Vikings, to the ages when the UK started to colonize other continents, the English language spread across many different areas and became a bit different among particular people. As you may know, now we have many different words that allow us to say the same things in English. A great example is the USA and the UK's use of English. Most things are similar, but there are also differences. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different accents you can hear that may sound like completely different languages but they are, in fact, all English.

Furthermore, if you found old English books, you would see that many words are now rarely used, but were once popular. After all, the more people speak English, the faster it changes. This is how words and sentence structures that were once said vanish from our memory.

Such a fast and exponential evolution of the English language leads many of us to skip important and interesting facts about it. Don’t worry, though, I won’t be giving you boring English grammar lessons. Instead, I offer the most surprising things you probably don’t know about the English language!

15. English Will Still Be Popular For At Least A Decade


While there are many popular languages in the world like Chinese, Russian, Hindustani, Spanish, and some smaller ones, the English language will still be the most globally popular language for at least 10 years.

You see, even in our fast-paced society, people need time to get accustomed to changes. Even if any other language will become more popular, it’ll need additional time to become used around the Earth.

Most of scientific resources and technologies are created to be used only in the English language. Moreover, it’s an unwritten rule among people who speak in different tongues to communicate by using English.

Even if any other language will become more globally recognized, English will still be used often, as not everyone has the time and dedication to master new languages. If you know English, you shouldn’t worry about being unable to communicate... at least for a decade or so.


12 English Is The Most Rapidly Changing Language


The more people use the same thing, no matter what it is, the faster it changes, as opposed to if it were used by a smaller group. The point is that if more individuals contribute to its use, the faster it evolves. Evolution, however, is not always going to the right side. Sometimes people create not very gentle words that are used just to annoy and insult others.

Most often, language evolution moves in the right direction, becoming richer and easier for everyone to use. How English or any other language evolves depends on the people who use it. In fact, some of today's countries call their own language one of the greatest treasures they have and don’t allow other people to make their language worse or different.

11 The Hindustani Language May Become More Popular Than English


The Hindustani language, also known as the Indian language, is mostly used in India and surrounding countries. Due to the huge territories in India, many different dialects developed among Indian people. Because of the dialects, sometimes it may seem that Indian people speak in different languages but it’s completely the same.

What made the Hindustani language so popular? It’s popular due to the fact that India is one of the first places where people started to join into bigger communities, create towns, and develop in science and communication subjects. This made the Hindustani language popular in India and in surrounding regions. Yet, there is only a little chance that in the coming 10 years the Indian language will become more useful than the English one.

If you want to learn the Hindustani language, watch Indian films. The film industry in India is the most profitable in the world and has a huge variety of amazing movies.

10 English Is Considered To Be A Young Language

While English started to develop hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, among scientists, it’s still considered to be a young language. It’s not because it was new, but because there are a lot of languages that are older. Egyptian, Hindustani, Chinese, and Japanese are languages that are much older. Some of them experienced only minor changes, while others became completely different and unrecognizable, even to its own citizens.

As all languages develop, scientists learning the older languages also need to learn what every symbol meant at a particular time. This makes the work even more difficult. So, if you hear on the news that some anthropologists took half a year to read one tablet, don’t be surprised, as it may take even longer.

9 100 Primary English Words Are Enough To Communicate In English


While the English language has at least 100,000 different words, you don’t need to learn all of them to communicate. Researchers found that if a person can learn at least 100 primary English words, in 80% of the situations, he’ll know enough words to understand the primary meaning others want to say.

The reason is simple. Even native English speakers don’t know all words and use only the primary ones. Yes, no, please, and good are some of the most often used words. Even if you lack some knowledge of English, you can always show something similar to what you want to say with your hands or by pointing at particular objects. Also, as this age is the age of modern communications, you can use your devices to simplify communication with people who can’t understand you.

8 It’s The Most Often Used Language For Science And Education


While most English-speaking people aren’t native speakers or, simply put, weren’t born and raised in countries where English is an official language, it’s still the most popular language for science and education purposes.

The reason behind this fact is basic. Before our society became globalized, English was already popular among many educated people, so it was used as the easiest way to communicate among researchers who spoke in different mother tongues. Year after year, speaking in English among the science community became a rule, and, in most cases, is still spoken today.

Also, 77% of European pupils learn English as a foreign language, and a whooping 80% of the information on the internet is stored in English. That only further raises its need in the modern world. Programming languages, scientific papers, and most blogs are written in English, so it’s a good idea to know this language as well as you can.

7 There Are Over 100,000 English Words


Scientists can’t agree on the exact number of English words, but 100,000 may be the smallest number of different English words we have, while the biggest count could be as many as 200,000 words!

English is now popular around the world and had many changes in the past. Many words became less used and have gotten modern synonyms. There's also the issue of newly created words that describe particular things. For example, in the past, we didn’t need such a word as "computer" because there were no such things as computers. This means that as we continue to create new things, and we’ll only increase the amount of words we have.

Moreover, it’s difficult to determine when a word is one word, or if there are two different words. For instance, the word 'workout' can be also written as 'work-out.' So, should it be counted as one word or two different words? Such conundrums make it hard for linguists to determine the exact number of words in the English language.

6 English Is A German Language

This doesn’t mean that the English language is completely the same as the German language, but both languages came from the same older language - more precisely, from a West Germanic language that is also the language from which Dutch and German tongues were developed. This means that vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and verb usage are similar among these modern day languages. So, if you know at least one of these languages, others will be much easier for you to learn.

Furthermore, the German language also is the language from which Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese tongues were developed. These languages all have some similarities with today’s English as well.

There are more languages that developed from a West Germanic language, but similarities among them are smaller, as they changed a lot. There are also called “dead” and “dying” languages that are believed to have originated from a West Germanic language, but because there are only a few people speaking them, it’s difficult to prove this fact.

7. Chinese May Become More Popular Globally Than English


As more economic strength and production goes to China, knowing the Chinese language becomes more and more of a necessary skill. Work, travels, and international communications are just a few areas where you could use the Chinese language.

While the Chinese language may seem difficult to use fluently, the most important part is to learn basic principles. If you’re not interested in learning Chinese, you can wait until something similar to Google Glasses develops with the ability to translate words in real-time.

You should know that while Chinese is a less globally used language, more people use it daily than English. Over one billion people, who mostly live in China and surrounding countries use this language daily to communicate.


5 Frisian Is The Most Similar Language To English


While many European countries use similar languages to English, the most identical is the Frisian language. While these languages resemble each other, in some cases, an English speaker and a Frisian speaker wouldn’t understand one another. The reason is that, for many years, these countries were separated, so Frisian and English developed in different ways. For example, a huge influence on the Frisian language came from close-by countries like German, Dutch, and Danish. This lead the Frisian language to resemble German, Dutch, and Danish languages.

Also, the English language had its own factors that boosted how fast these languages became less analogous. Traveling to new lands, settlers from other countries, and lack of communication among regions contributed to the English language's rapid changes.

So, if you plan to visit Frisia, be prepared to hear familiar but differently spoken words.

5. Some Letters Have Died Over The Years


Do you remember yourself learning the alphabet when you were younger? Do you know that some of the letters are missing? The missing letters are called the ethel, the ash, the eth, the wynn, and the thorn. In some regions, they are still alive. Icelandic and Faroese languages still use these letters, as they are considered to be one of the most conservative countries in terms of language.

These dead letters helped the ancient English speakers show a difference when writing similar but different sounds. As it required extensive knowledge of English, it was later decided to use fewer letters so it would be easier to communicate.

This decision was a useful one as many years ago, only a tiny amount of people were educated to write, read, and speak fluently in their own language. As the ability to write and read became more wide-spread, the language had to be made easier for everyone.

4 The Normans Had A Huge Influence On English


When the Normans came from France, they brought with them the French language, which is derived from Latin. While the French language made slow changes in English, over time, these changes became very influential by adding words that are still alive today.

Later, English became a second-rate language, and French replaced its use in official documents. Because English was no longer used in writing, it became much easier to moderate it. Grammar became much easier as well, allowing people from different regions to understand each other better and develop closer ties, which were necessary as people from the Norse and the Normans were coming in huge numbers into the UK.

Political, economical, and war purposes were the areas in which they needed to communicate the most. As you understand, such things are very important, as even a tiny miscommunication could create a disaster.

3 The Celts Changed English Too


Before the Anglo-Saxons came to the British Isles, the lands were already inhabited by the Celts. The Celtic people had their own language, which had many differences compared to the Germanic of the Anglo-Saxons. Celtic people started to speak what is now called "Old English" and added their own unique qualities to this language. For instance, the Celts loved to put verbs in the place before all other words. A sentence like “I love dogs” in Celtic order would be “love I dogs.” The Celts also created their own words, and while it’s difficult to determine a word's origin, there is a chance that even today we use some of the Celts’ words.

As the new ages came, English became more and more similar to what it is today. This could mean despite the Celts living in the British Isles, there is a high probability that their influence on today’s English is minimal.

2 Some Runes Were Written In English


The writing system that was popular in the British Isles before 1017 AD was the Runic writing system. This writing style came from the Ancient Germanic tribes that used the same writing technique throughout Europe and called it the Elder Futhark. Only the most educated people who were called druids were able to write on runes. Professional specialists say that on runes, there are most often texts about ancient myths, great battles, and some knowledge of sciences like herbalism and astronomy.

Later, the Anglo-Saxons adopted their own runic writing style, known as Anglo-Saxon futhorc. Runes became much less popular because King Cnut banned them. This lead to a lower use of stones for writing and an increase in the need of paper for communication. This resulted in an extinction of the “runes age”, as most other regions also used fewer runes for writing.

1 English Has Many Creole Languages


A creole language is any language that forms when two or more groups that speak in different languages mix their languages into one. At first, it’s quite difficult, but after some time, different groups start to understand each other's words. This forms one tongue that is easier for everyone to use.

It takes time and commitment to remake two or more languages into one, but it’s worth the effort because without communication, all groups experience problems due to miscommunication. Great examples are when British colonies went to the Caribbean region, Africa, and the Pacifico. There, the British people together with natives developed languages that are known today as Bajan and Gullah.

On the global scale, this also happens today, as the internet is a place where people speak in many different languages and find words that they like to add to their own language.


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