Devereux Education

English Language Consultancy

Brothers in Language

The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel is actually a rather intriguing and logical account of the beginnings of the Earth`s first `civilisation` speaking with one language but then breaking up due to disputes, wars and population pressures. The result of these problems was the development of various languages and cultures. Of course, the histories of the other parts of our Earth, sadly but inevitably, have followed the same pattern.

What has been true with the `Fertile Crescent` has been true also with Europe! We Brits know all about the Vikings, the Romans and 1066AD. Yet, as Devereux Education continues its work with the peoples of Europe and in particular with its work in France and Germany, we are very conscious of this language link.

Despite our recent `warring history` with both nations, it is really true to say that we are brothers in language; (and apologies to Dire Straits for parodying the title of one of their most-loved songs!)

The language history trail begins with the Romans. Their input into `English` is so obvious as to not be worth the mention.  Three hundred or so years later, the `Viking tribes` of Southern Sweden spread South into Northern Germany and then West into Denmark. These tribes then join up with others and take a look at, and a liking with, a smallish island just across the North Sea. Their language/s then become mixed with the locals`. Still later in 1066, the Normans invade and are determined to eradicate, the ugly native languages but instead are drawn into marriage with these natives and begin to lose the battle. Finally, Geoffrey Chaucer completes the rout and `rescues English` forever.

So today, it is not just the language teacher`s fascination with a communality of vocabulary of English, Latin, French and German which is evident, but there is a fascination also with the structures of these languages. The equivalences of such basic greetings as `Good day!`, `Bonjour!` and `Guten Tag!` are all clear and obvious examples of a common vocabulary and structure.  Equally clear is the way in which, only fairly recently, English word order has changed. If you have ever read the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, you will see in the text that there were Elizabethan English word order parallels with those to be found in German.

I will not bore the reader with the countless other examples of this communality but rather will finish by writing, with a heavy heart as we remember respectfully the hundredth anniversary of those dreadful battles of the First World War, that I really wish that all sides in the conflict had been taught, and had taken to heart, that they were brothers in language and so could have been brothers in arms too.

Chris Devereux

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