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What is Spoken English?

English, which is currently the third most spoken language in the world, belongs to the West-Germanic category of the Indo-European language family. It originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid-fifth-seventh centuries AD, by Germanic settlers- Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and is today prevalent in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland and island nations in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is also officially used in India, the Philippines, Singapore and various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, inclusive of South Africa. An interesting fact about English is that around two billion people, who make about one-third of the entire world’s population, use English today. Itis the most widely learned second language and either the only or one of the official languages of almost 60 countries of the world.

what is spoken english

About English language

Now let us talk about English language, in terms of its historical context. The history of the English language dates back to 500 BC, even before the Germanic settlement, when the Celts happened to inhabit the British Isles. The Celts were a big cluster of Caucasian tribes in Europe. Most of the influence of Celts on English is apparent through names of places, for instance, names of rivers like Clyde, Tamar, Thames and Tyne. For a very long time, the language of the Celts was referred to as ‘British’- the language of the native inhabitants of the land.

Post the Celts, the Romans conquered the British Isles, ruling for about 400 years. Greek and Latin were the two official languages of the Roman Empire, Latin being the original one. A considerable portion of the English language that we know today, comes from the Latin or Romance languages, namely French, Italian Portuguese, and Spanish. Thus, the language of the land was highly influenced by the Roman Conquest in the 43 AD. Consequently, a high percentage of English vocabulary has words of French, Latin and Greek origin. For example, ‘altitude’ ‘longitude’, ‘magnitude’ are some English words derived from the Latin words ‘alta’ (high/tall), ‘longa’ (long), ‘magna’ (large), respectively.

However, the Celtic and Roman invasions did not have an overall huge impact on English. The real establishment of the language started with the arrival of the Germanic tribes, who occupied Britain during the second half of the fifth century AD. This was when ‘old English’ developed from the West Germanic dialects spoken by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Their conquest changed the entire culture and language of the land. Old English, also called Anglo-Saxon English is very different from what we see English today as, Modern English. This period brought a shift in the history of English and was the major period of its conception and formation.

But this is not it. This was followed by the arrival of the Vikings who brought thousands of words into the English vocabulary, some of which are- happy, husband, window, blunder, etc.

Later, England was invaded by the Normans in 1066, as a result of which many French words were injected into the English language. For instance, the English word ‘restaurant’ comes from the French word, ‘le restaurant’ Similarly, the words ‘beef’ and ‘mutton’ are derived from the French word  ‘boeuf’ and ‘mouton’, respectively. , Later, French became the language of the court, government and administration, and upper classes for the next 300 years. This period witnessed the transformation from Old English to Middle English as it became simpler.

Another primary turn in the development of the language took place between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries- the Great Vowel Shift. This brought a change in the pronunciation of vowels in words, which amplified the discrepancy between speech and writing.

This last phase in the evolution of English as a language finally brought us to the English that we come across today, i.e. Modern English. Astoundingly, the language continues to change in all varieties, and at all linguistic levels, as a response to peripheral impacts such as modern technologies of communications, contact with other languages and so on and so forth.

What is Spoken English?

Simply put, ‘spoken English’ is the  English language that is uttered to converse and communicate. It comprises the usage of words, phrases and sentences verbally in order to communicate or express ideas or feelings to people around us.

As per linguist David Crystal, “Spoken English is the more natural and widespread mode of transmission, though ironically the one which most people find much less familiar-presumably because it is so much more difficult to ‘see’ what is happening in speech than in writing.” This explains, that spoken English is more natural and prevalent mode of communication or say, transmission of messages, the only catch being that most people are less acquainted with it, perhaps because it lacks ‘sight’, unlike ‘writing.’

The most basic difference between spoken and written English, or for that matter any language, is that it is grammatically less complex and involves shorter and simpler words and phrases. It is more concrete and direct, and mostly easier to comprehend and use.

All you wanted to know about Spoken English

English, like every other language, has a set of structural rules that need to be adhered to in order to make communication in the language meaningful and effective. Every language has certain building blocks, which help in strengthening its foundation. Understanding the hierarchy of these building blocks of language help to learn and use it better.

The area of language is so huge that it has an entire field of study devoted to it- Linguistics. Not only this but also there are several branches of Linguistics too- Phonetics and Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics. These branches explain the basic structural and functional units of English as a language. Phonology is the study of speech sounds; Morphology explains words, prefixes and suffixes; and Syntax is the study of sentences and phrases. These are the broad groups of study that aid both verbal and written communication in English. Speech sounds create phonemes, which make up words. Words, in turn, create sentences and phrases. Every sentence spoken or written carries some meaning, which could be literal or in the context of something, or both. This meaning is studied under Semantics and Pragmatics.

It is a fact that most of us acquire spoken language intuitively, implying that a language that is native to us, more known as our ‘mother tongue’ is innately acquired by us, whereas languages that are secondary or official to us, require effort to be taught and learnt. English is spread across hundreds of countries in the world and may not necessarily be the native language of people everywhere, thus more and more people learn to speak in English in schools, coaching centres and institutions.

Talking about spoken English, we know that it has gained a high level of importance in today’s world where globalisation has led to the expansion of English in all fields of work. In this scenario, knowing how to speak in English is not only necessary for personal development but also for career advancement and economic growth. Good spoken English gives way to a large number of opportunities for growing and progressing socially, individually and economically. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we are living in a world “all about English” since every nook and corner of the planet today is flooded with the use of the language.

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