As the most spoken language by second-language speakers and the third most spoken language by native speakers (after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish), English has become the most dominant common language or lingua franca in the world. In the Philippines, in particular, English was first introduced to the islands during the two-year British occupation of Manila (1762-1764) when the Seven Years War happened, and through the British trading houses that came when it was opened to global commerce. However, it was only strengthened further as an administrative language and a common language during the American colonial rule of the islands that almost lasted half a century. Because of that, the Philippines is one of the largest English-speaking countries where tens of millions speak it as a second or foreign language, and it is the official legal language. Interestingly, a few hundreds of thousands speak it as a first language (particularly among the younger middle to upper-middle-class Filipinos). English is also very much present in the country’s college entrance examinations and international proficiency tests, such as TOEFL and IELTS, which AHEAD aims to prepare its students for. So with that, you may be asking. How did English come about as a language and what was it like before?

A Short History of English

English belongs to the Germanic language family (West Germanic branch) of the Indo-European languages. Its closest West Germanic relatives are Frisian, Dutch, Low German and German. During the 500s, three Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, sailed from the lands of Jutland (in modern-day Denmark) and the North Sea (in modern-day Germany and the Netherlands). They settled in Britannia, which was abandoned by the Romans, (and renamed it Englaland in Old English or England after the Angles or Ængle) and spoke a language that would be known as Old English. The famous epic Beowulf originated during this period. During the 8th and 9th centuries, England faced Viking invasions, which brought Scandinavian influences to the English language. Words, such as are, call, hit, take, they/them/their, reindeer, gosling, egg, wing, bark, root, sky, anger, die, ill, rotten, leg, skin, bag, ball and knife come from Old Norse or the language of the Vikings.

When the Normans (descendants of Vikings who settled in Normandy) led by William the Conqueror in 1066 conquered England, Latin and French became the preferred languages of the government and the nobility and Greco-Roman influences were further strengthened in the isles. During the 12th century, a language known as Middle English emerged as a result of Viking and Norman-French influences. 

The English we speak today has a simpler grammar compared to Old English and a majority of words have Latin, French and Greek origins despite English being a West Germanic language. Since these languages are distant relatives of English, we’ll look at how many of their root words are also related to several English words in another article

Let’s take a look at how different our English is compared to Old and Middle English.

Old English: 

Fæder ūre þū þe eart on heofonum, Sī þīn nama ġehālgod;

/ˈfæ.der ˈuː.re θuː θe æɑrt on ˈheo.vo.num/, /siː θiːn ˈnɑ.mɑ je.ˈhɑɫ.ɡod/

Middle English: 

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, Halewid be thi name;

/ˈuːr(ə) ˈfaðər ðat art in ˈhɛu(ə)nɛs/, /ˈhaləwid bɛ θiː ˈnaːm(ə)/

Early Modern English: 

Our father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name;

/ˈaʊə(ɹ) ˈfɑː.ðə(ɹ) huː ɑ:(ɹ)t ɪn ˈhɛvən/, /ˈhæloʊd biː ðaɪ neɪm/

With that, we hope that you learned something interesting in this reading. Since we in AHEAD aim to help students prepare for the College Entrance Examinations and English proficiency examinations, we hope that these will be useful in learning and understanding vocabulary.


Baugh, A. C., & Cable, T. (2002). A history of English language. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Brands, H. W. (1992). Bound to empire: the United States and the Philippines. Oxford University Press.

Danley, M. & Speelman, P. (2012). The Seven Years’ War: Global Views History of Warfare. Brill.

Fennell, B. (1998). A history of English. A sociolinguistic approach. Oxford: Blackwell.

Fish, S. (2003). When Britain ruled the Philippines, 1762-1764: The story of the 18th century British invasion of the Philippines during the Seven Years War. AuthorHouse.

Gonzalez, A. (1998). The language planning situation in the Philippines. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural development, 19(5), 487-525.

Lass, R., & Romaine, S. (1992). The Cambridge history of the English language (Vol. 3). Cambridge University Press.

Knowles, G. (2014). A cultural history of the English language. Routledge.Watts, R. J. (2011). Language myths and the history of English. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This