Have you ever read a book that was written a long, long time ago? Maybe something by Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stevenson? If so, you’ve probably noticed that it was written in English, but it might not be as easy to read as more modern books you’ve read.

Likewise, if you’ve ever watched a television show from another English-speaking country, such as Great Britain, you may have realized the characters were speaking English, but the words they used and the way they spoke them was probably different than you’re used to.

Why is that? If we’re all speaking or writing English, why doesn’t it all sound the same? Are there different kinds of English? Do we people in the United States speak English…or American?

The history of the English language is a long and interesting story. Historians trace its origins to three Germanic tribes — the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes — who invaded Great Britain way back in the fifth century.

The people who lived in Great Britain at that time spoke a Celtic language. The invaders pushed these people north and west into what is today Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The invading Angles came from “Englaland” and the language they spoke was called “Englisc.” That’s where “England” and “English” came from.

The languages spoken by the invading Germanic tribes were similar. They developed into what scholars now call Old English. Old English didn’t sound or look much like what we consider English today. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to understand a word of it! Many modern words, though, do have Old English origins.

Old English was spoken until around 1100, when William the Conqueror — also called the Duke of Normandy (which was part of modern France) — invaded England. The Norman invaders spoke an old version of French and many of these words mixed with Old English to become what historians refer to now as Middle English.

In the 1500s and 1600s, trade brought many new peoples into contact with each other. The printing press also made books more common, and many more people learned to read. As more words and phrases from foreign countries seeped into the language, Middle English became Early Modern English.

In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution and new technology gave people a need for more new words. Likewise, the British Empire was so vast that more and more foreign words began to influence the language. Early Modern English turned into Late Modern English, which is closest to the version of English we speak in the United States today.

Would you believe that the English language is still evolving? It’s true! New words get added to the dictionary every year. Trends, slang and the events of the day lead to new words being created all the time. If you don’t believe us, just ask a parent or a relative to tell you about some words that were popular when they were young that are no longer used today!

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  1. The wonder of the day was kind of confusing to me. So I might not have a lot of things to say.

    Well I thought that it was cool how English came from England!

    So I will tell my teacher and my friends about this one today too!!!

    So this wonder was pretty cool! But I don’t know what my favorite English is!!!

    • We hope today’s Wonder made you smile, Cate! It’s fun to learn about the origin and differences in languages. We’re so glad you learned something new and you plan to share this Wonder with your friends and teacher! HOORAY! :)

  2. The video made us laugh. We really liked the tapir! He was funny.

    Our thoughts for tomorrow’s… planets, space, statues, Mt. Rushmore, aliens, Jimmy Neutron, or Easter Island Heads.

    We can’t wait for tomorrow’s Wonder.

    We would love to see more videos like today that make us laugh!

    • We’re glad today’s Wonder made you chuckle, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ class! We liked today’s Wonder video, too! It made us smile!

      Thanks for sharing ALL your WONDERful guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We can’t wait to find out what it will be! We’ve got another Wonder (and Wonder video) that will make you giggle: Wonder #766 WHEN WILL PIGS FLY? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/when-will-pigs-fly/ ENJOY! :)

  3. We LOVED the video today!!! It definitely made us laugh and we had to watch it twice!

    We learned that English has evolved over time and even though we speak the same language, it may sound differently because of where we are from.

    • HOORAY, we’re glad to hear it! Our Wonder Friends in Ms. O’Mahoney’s 4th Grade Class must have a great sense of humor! :)

      Thanks for sharing what you learned from today’s Wonder. It’s cool to understand where accents, dialect and language come from, and how they are formed! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We think we speak American English here in our classroom. We enjoyed the video and thought it was really funny.

    We think tomorrow will be about a monument that has large heads, air heads, or even the statue at Easter Island.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders.

    • We’re so glad our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Tillman’s 4th Grade Class are here today! YIPPEE! We think the English language is very interesting, and we’re glad you think so, too! Keep up the great work on your American English, but don’t forget to try chatting in different accents once in a while! :)

      We sure hope to see you tomorrow… we can’t wait for the next Wonder! :)

  5. We had some fun talking with different accents this morning. We talked about asking our parents to show us “Pirate English” on Facebook. Mrs. Ski really gets a kick out of that on Talk Like a Pirate Day. :)

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Mount Rushmore, airheads, bobbleheads, who made Mount Rushmore or HOW it was made, animals with big heads like the rhino or the statues on Easter Island.

    We look forward to Wondering tomorrow!

    • Hey Wonder Friends in Mrs. Ski’s AM Class! You sound like you’re having a grand ole time today! (Imagine we said that in an accent, too!) :)

      We are impressed with your ideas for tomorrow’s Wonder. Thanks for doing a great job of using both context clues and your imaginations! Keep up the WONDERful work! :)

  6. We would like to buy a “ambergar”!
    This is a great video to teach us about how our English Language was developed and how different strands were created.

    • Great work, Mrs. Janke’s Grade 5/6! You did a nice job of spelling out how the tapir said hamburger! :)

      We’re so happy to hear that this Wonder made you smile, and you all learned something new, as well! HOORAY for the English language and all the different ways it came to be! :)

  7. We thought the video was really funny. We hope you have more videos in the future. One of our students wonders “how big is your eye?”

    • YAY, we’re glad our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Franklin’s Class are WONDERing with us today! It’s great to know that today’s Wonder video made you giggle (we did, too!). Also, thanks for sharing your great Wonder about the eye. We LOVE when our Friends tell us their very own Wonders! We better start our research! :)

  8. Hi I thought this article was amazing you need to put more out and thank you for doing that because you help me with all my school work.

    • Well thank you so much, Landon! We’re glad that our Wonders help you with your school work and you have fun at the same time! HOORAY! We hope to see you soon for more WONDERing fun! :)

    • We’re glad you enjoyed our Wonder, Beau S, and we hope you can enjoy today’s Wonder video soon. If you’re at school, you may not be able to view it due to slow Internet speed or district restrictions. Perhaps you can view it at home or at a library? :)

  9. We think tomorrow’s wonder may be about Mt. Rushmore or the sphinx in Egypt or the Easter Island statues. Or maybe it has something to do with bobble heads?

    • Oooh, so many WONDERful guesses from Mrs. Dorough’s class today! HOORAY! :) Our Wonder Friends have done a great job using context clues from the “Wonder What’s Next” section! We hope to see you tomorrow to find out what the subject will be! :)

    • He he, thanks so much, Grace W! We are glad to make you smile! Today’s Wonder made us chuckle, too, and we also learned something new about the English language! HOORAY! :)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,

    The video was super funny today. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about elephants, giraffes, Easter Island, or bobble heads.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • We’re so glad that today’s video made you giggle, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! YIPPEE! We are happy that you’ve been WONDERing with us today, and we can’t wait to Wonder again tomorrow! Thanks for sharing your super guesses! :)

    • We LOVE your Wonder guesses, Mrs. Jones’s 3rd grade! We think it’s cool that you’ve guessed topics that are above AND below land! We can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! :)

  11. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I wanted to thank you for the wonderful video with the two animals talking. I learned all about different types of English. I wanted to know if the video from your site came from a movie? Thank you!

    From,

    Jon D.

    • Hey there, Jon D! We’re so glad you enjoyed our Wonder today! This Wonder video is called a “short”– like a short movie. Isn’t it cool? :)

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I learned that I speak American English. And yes, I would like to buy a hamburger!

    From,

    Elliot

    • We’d love to have a hamburger with you, Elliot R! …Or as the tapir said, “amberger”! :) Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned from today’s Wonder! You rock! :)

  13. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I like the video. It is funny. Thank you for the video. Do you know what the word “truck” is in Old English? Thanks!

    Kevin B.

    • WOW, thanks for sharing a cool fact with us, Kevin B! We’re glad to hear that you enjoyed today’s Wonder; it made us smile, too! Have a terrific Tuesday! :)

  14. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I like the video. It is so funnny! The video reminded me of the Pink Panther movie. I learned about the English language. I want to say thanks for your best Wonder work yet!

    Sincerely,

    Michelle A.

    • What a great connection to today’s Wonder, Michelle A! We bet there are lots of comical English language references in the movie, too! We’re so happy to hear that this Wonder is at the top of your list of favorites! WAHOO! :)

  15. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I liked the funny video. It reminded me of the Pink Panther movie too. I learned that I speak American English in Illinois. I also learned that they speak American English on the radio when I listen. Thank you!

    From,

    Steven G.

    • Hey there, Steve G! Great connection, to both the Pink Panther movie and the dialect of the radio personalities! WAY TO GO! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  16. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I read the article online about English. The giraffe teacher was talking to what kind of animal?

    From,

    Alex

  17. We thought today’s Wonder was de’ best we’ve seen in a long time. We thought this video came pretty close to being as funny as Ormie. We liked thinking about different dialects, accents, and slang.

    Ay’ we be thinkin’ dat tomorra’s wonder may be about Mt. Rushmore, balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland, Easter Island, bobbleheads, big animals, big headed animals, bumblebees, or snowman heads.

    • HOORAY, our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Ski’s PM Class are here! And you’re in character today!! Excellent! :)

      We thought you were going to mention Ormie; we sure are glad you liked this Wonder video, too! It certainly made us chuckle!

      Tanks for sharing deese SUPER guesses for tomorra’s Wonder! See ye then! :-)

  18. Whoever did the voice of the tapir was sooooooooooooooooooooooo funny!!! That went along with today’s wonder so well! :)

    • Very cool, Berkleigh! We LOVE hearing the accents of others, which are different, depending where in the world they live. We are so glad to have a great Wonder Friend like you! See you soon! :)

  19. Thanks for an interesting wonder today – We loved the video (and we even found the original Steve Martin clip from the Pink Panther movie – it is almost as funny as the animation!!). We started our BuzzWord of the Day Dictionary!! We think tomorrow’s wonder is about Sperm Whale heads, or maybe about some famous large statues like the Giant Buddha in China or the Easter Island Statues.

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us, Gwen and Angus! We are so happy to hear that you even watched the Pink Panther clip– what a great connection to today’s Wonder! :)

      We think you’re on the right track… such great guesses for tomorrow! :)

    • How cool, lili13! Your trip sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m sure your mom has lots of fun facts to share about her heritage, too! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  20. Today I started a new school and didn’t like it very much. Nobody would sit with me at lunch. :( Hope you had a better day than I did.

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Ally! We’re sorry to hear that your day wasn’t the best. We hope you will keep your head up and perhaps you’ll have a better day today! Making friends in a new place isn’t always the easiest in the beginning, but we have big dreams for you, Ally! Perhaps you can invite a classmate to sit with you, or find a common topic with some classmates. Are you reading the same book, playing the same video games, or interested in the same activities as any of your classmates? :)

  21. Loved the video! We laughed and laughed! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Easter Island or Mt. Rushmore. Half of us think it will be one and half of us the other. It will be fun to see who is right.

    • HOORAY, the Benton Family is here today! YIPPEE! We are glad to know that today’s Wonder made you chuckle… and we bet you’re in for a treat with tomorrow’s Wonder, too! Thanks for visiting- we will see you soon! :)

    • We’re glad to hear that this Wonder was right up your alley, Mariana! Thanks for answering our Wonder question! :)

      Bibles have been translated into many different languages, including Old English! Great connection! :)

  22. My favorite English is Australian. I’ve always wanted to have an Australian accent. The video was so cute and every day in my class we all share our wonders and that is the best part about wonderopolis. There are so many facts on here and I love that about that too.

    • We love hearing different accents, too, Frances! We sure are glad to hear that this Wonder made you smile! The video made us giggle, and we had fun learning about the English language! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • We’re glad that you connected our English Wonder to the Pink Panther, Janice! Some other Wonder Friends have done the same! So cool! :)

  23. The wonder today made my whole class laugh! We watch the wonder of the day every day because we love it so much and this one is the best by far!! :)

    • That’s great news, Sierra! Thanks for visiting us every single day, that’s really WONDERful! We are happy to share what we’ve learned with great friends like you! :)

    • He he, we’re glad our English Wonder video make you and your brother giggle, Joseph R! We are still chuckling! :-)

      While we think three Wonders per day would be awesome, we have more than 800 Wonders to share with you! Check out all the Wonders for the past right here: http://wonderopolis.org/wonders/ ! :-)

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Angie! We’re still chuckling here at Wonderopolis, too! We LOVE to laugh while we Wonder! :-)

  24. Hi wonderopolis I am one of Mrs. Johnson’s students. I love how the taper does not know how to say “I would like to buy a hamburger”.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Corey! We are glad to hear that you enjoyed our language Wonder– that tapir made us laugh, too! Thanks for visiting us, Corey! See you soon! :)

    • Great question, Maddy! We know that the dialogue in the Wonder video is from the movie, The Pink Panther! We’re not certain what language the tapir is speaking, but it makes us smile! :)

    • We’re glad our Wonder made you chuckle today, Nick R! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! We hope you have a “amburga” soon! :)

  25. Hi I am Gabrielle and I am from Mrs. Hess’ class I thought it was funny and interesting and I loved every wonder. My class is in Raymond Park Intermediate Academy and boy was I laughing my class begged our teacher to watch it over and over. It was amazing. My predicton for tomorrow is birds or owls and things that fly. Thank for that wonder and the flying pigs one bye got to go.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Gabrielle! We are so happy to hear your thoughts about our language Wonder! It sure made us chuckle, too! :)

      We look forward to WONDERing with you tomorrow… in the meantime, keep smiling! Oink oink! :)

  26. Very funny in the video how long did it take the giraffe to try and teach the other animal? Oh and can you translate that in German?

    • We’re not sure, but we bet it took a lot of time and patience for the giraffe to teach a new language and the tapir to learn one! We are sorry to report, Maddy, that we can’t translate our Wonders into another language. We Wonder if you are learning German in school? :)

    • We’re so happy our Wonder Friends Aden, Rhett and Alissa are here today! That English Wonder had us giggling for days! And we were suddenly hungry for a hamburger, too! :) Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  27. I really loved that video I couldn’t stop laughing! Well I’m from Mrs. Hess’ class. Can you send any more funny videos? Thank You!

  28. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
    I’m in Mrs.Hess’s class. This video is funny and the animals make me laugh! Do you have any videos that makes me laugh? :)

    • HOORAY, we’re glad we’ve got you chuckling today, Kathy! Thanks for sharing your comment; we hope you’ll keep WONDERing with us! We love to laugh! :)

    • That sounds like a cool idea, Aden and Rhett! We think you should practice your accents- perhaps you can create some cool voices of your own! :)

  29. Hi I am back and I am still laughing it’s Gabrielle hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
    Thanks.

    • It sounds like this Wonder really cracked you up, Gabrielle! Thanks for making us smile– your laughter is contagious! :)

  30. My favorite kind of English is definitely British!!!!!! I know many words!!! On Tuesday I’m going to play football!!!! Tricked you!!! It’s soccer!

    • Cheerio, Elizabeth! We are so glad you enjoy our English Wonder! We hope you have a great soccer match on Tuesday! Let us know how the game goes, please! :)

  31. I think that when I saw this passage, I thought that I should watch the video. When I watch the video, I thought that I should show this video to MY classmates!!! When we all watch this video, we started to laugh our eyes out. Thank you for letting me watch this video with my friends, or classmates!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Liberty! We like to learn about languages of all sorts! Do you speak any additional languages? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s your favorite kind of English?
  • How did the English language evolve?
  • How big is your vocabulary?

Wonder Gallery

EnglishVimeo Video

Try It Out

So you think you know English? Guess what? There are probably thousands of words you don’t know.

Grab a dictionary or jump online to use an Internet dictionary. Just browse through and see what words you know and what words you’ve never heard of before. Do you know most of the words you see? Or are many of them unfamiliar?

Increasing your vocabulary is something you can do easily each day. Check out the Word of the Day online and start learning new words each day. You never know when your bigger vocabulary will help you become a better speaker and writer!

Still Wondering

Check out EDSITEment!’s The Autumn of the Middle Ages: Chaucer and Dante collection, which features resources relating to medieval literature and presents information about the works of Chaucer and Dante.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a close look at some huge heads!

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