Why do people all over the world learn foreign languages? Perhaps because the world is getting smaller, in a way: nations are more closely linked with each other than ever before, companies operate world-wide, scientists of different nationalities co-operate, and tourists travel practically everywhere. The ability to communicate with people from other countries is getting more and more important. Before learners of a foreign language are able to communicate, they have to acquire many skills. They must learn to produce unfamiliar sounds. They must build up a vocabulary. They must learn grammar rules and how to use them. And, last but not least, they must develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills and learn how to react in a variety of situations
The population of Britain is only about 58 million. But throughout the world English is spoken by over 700 million people.
About 350 million people speak English as their first language in 12 countries such as Britain, the USA. Canada, Australia. New Zealand. South Africa.
About 300 million use English as a second or official language in over 60 countries, for example, in India. They usually use it when doing business, or when completing official documents and forms.
It is estimated that at least 100 million people throughout the world use English fluently as a foreign language.
Now a little bit about the foreign influence in Old English. From the 6th century Christianity start activities in Britain, the Bible is translated into Old English, and quite a lot of terms are borrowed from Latin at that time: many bishops, missionaries and Pope’s officials come from Rome. The next group of foreign loanwords was taken from Scandinavian dialects, after the Vikings occupied much of the country in the 9th – 11th centuries. Scandinavian languages were close relatives with Old English, so the mutual influence was strong enough to develop also the Old English morphology, strengthening its analytic processes. Many words in the language were either changed to sound more Scandinavian, or borrowed.
There are over 3.000 languages in the world. So why has English become so widely spoken? Today the English language is almost the same all over the world. You can tell a person’s nationality from their accent – Australian, Scottish, Canadian and so on. But the words are more or less international. It’s strange that the differences in Britain itself are greater than those between Britain and other English-speaking countries. For a Londoner, it’s easy to understand an American, but quite difficult to understand the dialect of Newcastle in the North of England!