Language, Lore & Legend: The history of the English Language

Ref: C2227805

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.

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?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • This course is for a group of around 15 students studying in a live video-learning platform conference and an online digital learning environment platform from the comfort of your own home.
  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students need a level 2 qualification in English to join this course
  • 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 some of 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’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • 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 may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will be able to keep a digital portfolio of your work on WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas.
  • 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?

  • What you need: You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our video learning platform, Zoom. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:
  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).
  • You will need a personal email address to join the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas so that you can receive resources, record your progress and achievement and to work with others and share ideas. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • You will be expected to bring a notebook and pen or pencil to each session. The tutor will ask you to download hand-outs to your desktop computer or laptop in support of your learning during the course.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • You will have access to course resources and links to wider learning through the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas:
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Reading in preparation for the course is desirable and a booklist with up to about thirty titles will be included among the course resources on Canvas.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • 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 & Legend: The history of the English Language


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • 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 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing