History of the English Language

Ref: C3741338

The course will begin with an overview of the story of English from before the earliest records to the present. After that several classes will concentrate on the different periods in the history of English, ending with the present-day language (with a peep into its possible future). You will be looking at and discussing texts and examples of the language from the time of Bede and Alfred on through the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment till today. Other classes will deal with dialects, both geographical and social; the spread of English worldwide (including a look at English pidgins); and the relationship of English to other languages. Suggestions for other topics will be welcomed and if practicable incorporated into the course.

Course aim

To learn how the English language became what it is today, and how it has changed and interacted with other languages; and to relate that to the history and culture of these islands, Europe, and the world.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • recognise the way in which English has changed and developed over the centuries.
  • relate the history of the language to British, European, and world history and culture.
  • analyse how English has influenced and been influenced by other languages.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • There aren't any specific learning progressions, though clearly the course would be of help to anyone wanting to study history or, to some extent, linguistics or other languages.

Download full Course information sheet

History of the English Language


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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