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ENGLAND: Languages

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LANGUAGES

As its name suggests, the English language, today spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world, originated as the language of England, where it remains the principal tongue today (although not officially designated as such). An Indo-European language in Anglo-Frisian branch of the Germanic family, it is closely related to Scots and Frisian. As the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged into England, "Old English" emerged; some of its literature and poetry has survived.

Used by aristocracy and commoners alike before the Norman Conquest (1066), English was displaced in cultured contexts under the new regime by the Norman French language of the new Anglo-French aristocracy. Its use was confined primarily to the lower social classes while official business was conducted in a mixture of Latin and French. Over the following centuries, however, English gradually came back into fashion among all classes and for all official business except certain traditional ceremonies. (Some survive to this day.) But Middle English, as it had by now become, showed many signs of French influence, both in vocabulary and spelling. During the Renaissance, many words were coined from Latin and Greek origins; and more recent years, Modern English has extended this custom, being always remarkable for its far-flung willingness to incorporate foreign-influenced words.

The law does not recognise any language as being official, but English is the only language used in England for general official business. The other national languages of the UK (Welsh, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic) are confined to their respective nations, and only Welsh is treated by law as an equal to English (and then only for organisations which do business in Wales).

The only non-Anglic native spoken language in England is the Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, which became extinct in the 19th century but has been revived and is spoken in various degrees of fluency by around 3,500 people. This has no official status (unlike Welsh) and is not required for official use, but is nonetheless supported by national and local government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Cornwall County Council has produced a draft strategy to develop these plans. There is, however, no programme as yet for public bodies to actively promote the language. Scots is spoken by some adjacent to the Anglo-Scottish Border.

Most deaf people within England speak British sign language (BSL), a sign language native to Britain. The British Deaf Association estimates that 70,000 people throughout the UK speak BSL as their first or preferred language, but does not give statistics specific to England. Like Cornish, BSL has no official status, but has been granted a degree of recognition by the government. The BBC broadcasts several of its programmes with BSL interpreters.

Different languages from around the world, especially from the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations, have been brought to England by immigrants. Many of these are widely spoken within ethnic minority communities, including Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Chinese and Vietnamese. These are often used by official bodies to communicate with the relevant sections of the community, particularly in big cities, but this occurs on an "as needed" basis rather than as the result of specific legislative ordinances.

Other languages have also traditionally been spoken by minority populations in England, including Romany.

Despite the relatively small size of the nation, there are a large number of distinct English regional accents. Those with particularly strong accents may not be easily understood elsewhere in the country. Use of foreign non-standard varieties of English [[such as Caribbean English) is also widespread. You can use your international cellular phone rental in England to communicate easily.

 
 
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