English is the most commonly spoken language in the world; 1.5 billion people across the globe speak it. English is used online, taught in many countries, and is considered to be lingua franca. That’s why it is essential to master the language. Fortunately, there are many resources available online to help you learn the language.
People have been using the Latin or Roman alphabet to write English since the 9th century AD. Modern English has 26 letters comprising of 5 vowels and 21 consonants. It has a multilayered spelling system that borrows some elements from other Indo-European languages like French, Greek, and Latin. Around 29% of its vocabulary comes from Latin, 29% from Old French, 26% from Old Germanic languages, 6% from Greek, and the rest from other sources.
Most European languages have accents or similar indicators to tell you how to pronounce a word. English doesn’t have a consistent indicator, which is why new learners may struggle at first. The pronunciation of consonants is fairly consistent, but that of vowels can be inconsistent. That’s why English has long vowels to illustrate the length of vowel sounds. Words like ‘boat’, ‘root’, ‘sail’ sound different from ‘bot’, ‘rot’, and ‘sale’.
English has complex grammar thanks to centuries of evolution and hundreds of influences. The basic sentence structure is SVO or Subject – Verb – Object. For example, we say, ‘I ate an apple.’ In this sentence, ‘I’ is the subject, ‘ate’ is the verb, and ‘apple’ is the object. The language places emphasis on the subject instead of the object. You can say ‘I wrote’ and have it make complete sense.
English also has a different way of expressing tenses. For example, the language doesn’t have a morphological future tense. Speakers need to add ‘will’ or ‘shall’ to the verb to showcase the tense. In contrast, most words have a past and present tense form like ‘run’ and ‘ran’ or ‘sing’ and ‘sang.’
English has an array of dialects because people across the world speak it. Different regions have developed their unique versions over time, and the dialects can be divided into broad categories such as:
- The United Kingdom and Ireland – English developed naturally here, which is why the UK and Ireland have many different dialects. Outsiders are familiar with BBC English or Received Pronunciation, as the media uses it. This dialect is a refined, sophisticated-sounding version of the language from South East England. When you visit this region, you can hear English from England, Northern England English, Scottish English, Scottish, Welsh English, Estuary English, Hiberno English, and Ulster English.
- North America – English in North America isn’t as diverse as the one in the UK. Most people speak in a General American accent with slight differences based on origins. Other dialects in the area are African American Vernacular English, Southern American English, and Canadian English.
- Australia and New Zealand – Australian and New Zealand English dialects are slightly different from other forms of English. They developed independently since 1788, which has given them several unique characteristics. For example, many vowels are diphthong, and short vowels are raised and fronted.
- Southeast Asia – Many Southeast Asian countries speak English as their second language, but it is most prominent in the Philippines and Singapore. The British and Americans ruled the Philippines at different points, and their English influenced the native population. Filipinos also code-switch between their native Tagalog or Visayan languages and English.
- Africa – English is one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa and is an official or co-official language of many countries. South African English or SAE is very popular, especially among the educated class. It is non-rhotic with Received Pronunciation, a legacy of colonial rule. Some Africans also speak Nigerian English, which is also non-rhotic, with a significant Received Pronunciation influence.
- The Caribbean – Many of the Caribbean Islands had been colonized by the British, which means English is a popular language there. The most prominent dialects are Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole.
- South Asia – English is spoken in many South Asian countries, but the language is most widespread in India. Indian English is formal and considers Received Pronunciation as ideal. The accent varies from one region to another based on the speaker’s native language. RP is more pronounced in people belonging to a higher social class and level of education.
English is not only an interesting language to learn but also a must. Having a good grasp of the language can help you communicate well in business settings and forward your career. Knowing English can help you interact with more people, and is particularly useful if you are a frequent global traveler. It is a popular second language in many countries, and can be surprisingly easy to learn if you are ready to put in the effort and time to learn it.