The story of English starts more than a thousand years ago. Richard goes to the British Library to hear – and see – how the language has changed over the years.

Task 1

Which of these things do Richard and Roger discuss at the British Library?

Exercise

Task 2

Type in the missing words or numbers.

Exercise

Task 3

Can you turn these SMS messages into correct English?

Exercise

Task 4

Choose the best phrasal verb to complete the sentence.

Exercise

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Discussion

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Wow! I have never thought of English to be so gorgeous before. The Great Britain library is also magnificent. I wish I could visit there, sitting by the window and reading an old book some day. By the way, I have some questions about your culture. Are those books witten in old English(like the old one shown before the two main characters) accessible to ordinary citizens? Do British kids learn old English at school as we learn old Chinese in China? If so, how do their teachers explain old language to them?
Thank you!

Hello DoctorHiStreet,

Those are good questions! Actually, Roger answered one of them when he said that Old English is 'very, very difficult to read, only a few people can do so.' But of course it depends on how old the language is - the further back you go, the harder it is.

As for your other question, I think it's extrememly rare for British children to learn Anglo-Saxon old English at school, although almost all of them will study the language of Shakespeare. Old English is usually taught first at University to students studying English, but I'm afraid I don't know how common it is.

Best wishes,

 

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, sir,
Can I say "My dream university" in written English?
Thank you!

Hi DoctorHiStreet,

You can say anything (as long as it makes sense) in written English! The only question is whether or not it is appropriate, and this is not really about whether it is written or spoken, but whether it is formal or informal, who the reader is and so on.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the sentence We have documents here that _______ a thousand years.
Why is it that 'go back' in stead of that 'goes back'?

Hello Tom,

The antecedent of the relative pronoun 'that', i.e. what 'that' refers to, is 'documents', which is plural. Therefore the verb 'go' is used in the plural instead of the singular 'goes' form.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers,
I have two questions regarding to the video. First, when it comes to the sentence "...so we capture a snapshot of what the language is like". I do not undersdand the words CAPTURE A SNAPSHOT in this combination. Is it phrase or... When I looked up in the dictionary I failed to understand the meaning of words together.

Another one is about the adjective "versatile". In this context (it tells us it’s very versatile-the English language) it tells us it is adjustable, isn't it? My question is can I say that:
1. I am versatile person (like adjustable, adaptive) for example to the all weather seasons.
2. I am versatile person (like many-sided) I can play many sports, be good at school, be good with creative things and so much more.
Are these phrases common in English or we have another one when we want to say something more about ourselves?

Thank you

Hello andeo,

'capture' means more or less the same thing as 'take', as in 'take a picture'. It means that we get a representative sample of the language.

Although it is intelligible, 'versatile' isn't typically used to speak about a person who can adapt well to different types of weather (typically 'adapt' is used); 'versatile' does, however, collocate with 'athlete', so we could say, for example, that Michael Jordan was a versatile athlete – he played basketball and golf (though the latter not so well). It's also used to speak of an athlete who can play different positions in games such as rugby – note also the term 'utility player'.

They are not necessarily easy to use, but you might want to try using a concordancer to look for collocations. A quite versatile concordancer resource is corpus.byu.edu.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

.I think that French is a very difficult language to learn if you're a British person. The verbs are the most complicated thing to remember. I also think that everyone could read Middle English, because there is no difference between English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese or Portuguese. We just need to be persevering and to make an effort to perform. If we have a big dictionary, a pencil and a sheet, the advantages of Internet and some good friends who speak English, nothing is impossible. I'm pretty sure that English will stay the most spoken language in the world, but I believe that some other languages will become commonly used all around the world. I'll give an example: Spanish is the most practicing language on 6 public sites on the Internet. Mandarin is also becoming very popular. It's the same thing about Chinese and French. But the future is always uncertain.

BELLA.99.

According to Wikipedia, there was no common language in my country when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. By 1898 the common language was Spanish, spoken by around 70% of the population, it was only 1937 when our national language was approved by the President. In the sense of reading I can say that I can read some of the Middle English but I cannot understand because of the different writings of the letter in a word. Today, English is already the well-known language around the world and it will change the future to a better living if all will understand and speak English, we can also express our ideas specially in the business part.

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