Thursday, May 25, 2006


There are many language zealots out there that seem to think that the American English language is under attack and needs a law to protect it. There are also some who resent the way some minority groups use our language. Do not worry, the state of the American English language is sound and well.

English is a Germanic language an as a matter of fact the name of the language itself derives from “Englisc” which is the name of the language that the Angles tribes, originally from Engel, spoke during the fifth century.

Throughout the Norman Empire and up until 1362 the language of the British monarchy was French and Latin. At that time, the English underclass spoke four different English dialects. In 1399, King Henry IV became the first king of England whose mother tongue was English.

English has always been a bastard language and that is why the majority of modern English words come from foreign not old English roots. As a matter of fact only about 1/6 of known old English words have descendants surviving today and only about 5,000 or so words from this period have remained unchanged.

Languages that have contributed words to English include Latin, Greek, French, German, Arabic, Hindi (from India), Italian, Malay, Dutch, Farsi (from Iran and Afghanistan), Nahuatl (the Aztec language), Sanskrit (from ancient India), Portuguese, Spanish, Tupi, Quechua (from South America) and Ewe (from Africa). William Shakespeare himself coined over 1600 new words.

So, do not be alarmed if the Latinos or Blacks, for that matter, continue to enrich American English with their own creative use of the language.

That is what English is all about and why it has become the fastest growing and most widely published language in the world. There are at least eight main different regional standards of English and within each of these regional varieties a number of highly differentiated local English dialects.

More than 300 million people throughout the world speak English as a first language. One in five of the world’s population speak English with a good level of competence and within the next couple years the number of people speaking English as a second language will exceed the number of native speakers. In Latin America alone, English is a mandatory second language course in most schools throughout the region.

English is not under attack and certainly does not need to be protected by a law.

What you should be concerned though is with ignorance. Over 45% of Europeans can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue as can 77% of their students while less than 10% of our college students learn foreign languages.

If at all, we should be encouraging our people to learn foreign languages and certainly Spanish. In Brazil for example, both English and Spanish are now part of the elementary school curricula.

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