The history of the English language - a documentary


One of the most creative and informative documentaries about the English language is "The Adventure of English: 500 AD to 2000", produced by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) in 2003, and presented by Melvyn Bragg.


It begins by showing the ancient relatives to English, whose Frisian - spoken in northern Holland - is the closest tongue. From those lowlands, the Anglo-Saxon invaded the Britain island, where they defeated the native Celt (or Welsh), who were enslaved by the former. And then, began the journey of the language.

Although the documentary is filled with linguistic details, a multidisciplinary approach is its spine. The background is based on information given through interviews, illustrations, acting, literature quotations, archaeological evidence and so on.. Nevertheless, its wealth is made of an uncountable number of exemplifications in the modern use of the language, which cleverly grasps the audience's attention.

After the above mentioned first contact with Gaelic (the Celt's language) and a glance at Viking languages (Danish for example) afterwards, French and Latin added a wide vocabulary and flexible structure, due to Norman invasion and Church domain upon the Britain. Yet English has started to invade other continents (America, India, China, Africa, and Australia), Greek, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Persian and Turkish made their contribution to enriching, even more, the range of possibilities in English before it finally became a worldwide tongue.


Despite its drips of ideology trying to point out its romantic aspects, this documentary is magical and attractive. Hence, The Adventure of English is worth watching if you want to enlarge not only your English skills but also fill your well  of knowledge with a little pool of cultural wisdom, which was precisely selected by one wise and cult TV channel, well-known for its quality and high standards.

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Review written for the Cambridge Proficiency English course, The English Academy, Dublin, 2016.