Unit 2.
English - a Language of the World


Reading for Information

23. A. Read the text once carefully and say why English is taught and learnt in almost1 all the countries of the world.

An English-speaking World

Language belongs to each of us. Everyone uses words. What is it about language that makes people so curious?2 The answer is that there is almost nothing in our lives that is not touched by language. We live in and by language. We all speak and we all listen: so we are all interested in the origin of words, in how they appear and die.

The rise of English is a story of wonderful success. When Julius Caesar ['si;zaj landed in Britain nearly two thousand years ago, English did not exist. Five hundred years later, in the 5th century, English was already spoken by the people who inhabited Great Britain, but they were not many, and their English was not the language we know today. Nearly a thousand years later, at the end of the 16th century, when William Shakespeare created his works, English was the native language of about 6 million Englishmen. At that time English was not used anywhere else except Great Britain.

Nowadays, four hundred years later, 750 million people all over the world use English, and half of those speak it as a mother tongue.3 Of all the 2700 world languages English is one of the richest. For example, compare English, German and French: English has a vocabulary of about 500 000 words, German 185 000 and French fewer than 100 000. At the beginning of the 21st century English is more widely spoken and written than any other language has ever been. It has become the language of the planet, the first truly global language. Three quarters of the worlds mail and its telexes and telegrammes are in English. More than half of the worlds scientific periodicals and eighty per cent of the information in the worlds computers are also in English. English is the main language of business. It is the language of sports: the official language of the Olympics.

1 almost
2 curious
3 a mother tongue

The English language surrounds us like a sea, and like the waters of a deep sea it is full of mysteries. English is and has always been constantly changing. Some words die, some change their meanings and all the time new words appear in the language.

There are several ways to add new words to the language. One of them is by borrowing words from other languages. In modern English there are many words that were borrowed from Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch1 and other languages. When Columbus came back from South America, he brought home to Spain new plants potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco. With the plants he brought their names. This is how these words appeared in Spanish and later were borrowed from it by the English language.

The words that are borrowed tell us about the countries they have come from. Many Italian words that are now part of English (opera, operetta, piano) have to do with music Italian musicians have always been among the most famous in the world. Many of the words that people borrow from other languages are names of food.

. Complete the sentences with the appropriate2 variants.

  1. At the beginning of the 21st century __________________.
    1. 750 million people use English as their native language
    2. one cant underestimate3 the use of English
    3. English is regarded as the richest language of the world
    4. it is easier to send mail in English than in other languages
  2. All borrowed words ________________.
    1. are names of food
    2. are continuously changing
    3. reflect the cultures of the countries they come from
    4. reflect the interest of Italian people in music

24. Read the text again for more detailed information and answer these questions.

  1. Is there anything about the language that makes you curious? What is it?
  2. Are you interested in the origin of words? What words?
  3. Who spoke English two thousand years ago when Julius Caesar landed in Britain?
  4. Was the 5th-century English like English today?
  5. How many people spoke English in Shakespeares times?
  6. How many people speak English nowadays?
  7. Which of the three languages has the most words English, French or German? Which one has the least words?
  8. Do you think its good to have an international, global language? Why?
  9. Why can English be called the language of business and the language of sports?
  10. From what languages did English borrow a lot of words?
  11. How did the words potato, tomato and tobacco find their way into English?
  12. What words came into English from other languages?
  13. What else about the history of English would you like to know?

1 Dutch
2 appropriate
3 to underestimate