Language, Lore and Legend – The Story of English

Ref: C2226668

We shall consider the emergence of the English language in our island after about 500AD and assess the progress it made in the next five hundred years. We then turn to later events that changed our language and the diversity of English that existed in the later Middle Ages. By 1400 English had become the 'first' language in England, even though it existed in a large variety of forms at that time. A series of actions and events subsequently served to introduce greater standardisation in our language, while other influences were leading to further differentiation in its use. Limited educational opportunities before the Victorian era meant that varieties of English were mainly unaffected by prescriptive influences and have only recently been largely eroded, but there are now multiple factors influencing the further development of English to the extent that we must now wonder what our language will be like in the future.

Additional information about this course

The course will end at 4pm as it includes a short 15 minute coffee break.

Course aim

To reflect on the development of English from the fifth century AD. Towards the end of the course, students will be able to consider English at the present time and where it might be heading in the future.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students need a level 2 qualification in English to join this course
  • This course is for students who attend a specific centre only. For more information please call 0300 303 3464
  • A prior knowledge of the main phases of English history is desirable and class members must be interested in language.

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

  • State the main phases of language development in this country from the earliest times.
  • Name those people who have had a particularly important influence on English since the seventh century.
  • Identify earlier forms of English and place them in the development of the language.
  • Describe the major influences on 'standard English' since the sixteenth century.
  • Explain, broadly, why there are differences in the forms of modern English in this country.

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
  • You will be expected to carry out a range of activities in your own time

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
  • You will be encouraged to share your thoughts and ideas with others in the class and consider others' understanding of aspects of the course.

What else do I need to know?

  • You will be expected to bring a notebook and pen or pencil to each session. - The tutor might suggest you download hand-outs to your desktop computer or laptop in support of your learning during the course.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • Reading in preparation for the course is desirable and a booklist with up to about thirty titles will be sent to the Branch in advance.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • Students taking this course would find it useful were they to enrol for an undergraduate course in English literature or linguistics. The tutor will provide suggestions to students at the end of the course about areas of the subject they might like to explore further.

Download full course information sheet

Language, Lore and Legend – The Story of English


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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