Video History of the English language

TLF ID M011962

This is a film and accompanying case study about the origin and development of the English language, especially the great number of words it has borrowed from other languages. Beginning with the source Indo-European languages, the film traces the birth and growth of English through the invasions of Britain and subsequent British history, including its periods of imperial expansion. The case study (see top drop-down menu and left sidebar) shows how the film was shaped by government wartime controls in 1942. The film is in black-and-white and runs for 14 mins 20 secs. The case study contains three primary source documents about the film.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Although dating from the 1940s, the film is of real continuing value in showing how languages develop by absorbing words from other languages. It contains numerous examples of loan words into English, each of which is carefully pronounced and its meaning illustrated visually. The film is highly relevant for the content description in the year 8 English curriculum about how English has been influenced by other languages.
  • The film and case study are also relevant for the World War II depth study in the year 10 history curriculum. They are particularly useful for the content description about the impact of World War II, including the use of wartime government controls such as censorship. Changes were made to the working script of the film to ensure that the Ministry of Information would not embargo the film because of its frequent mentions of invasions of England and the amount of time it devoted to the Germanic origin of English.
  • Equally relevant to the World War II depth study is the implicit and explicit propaganda contained in the film and described in the case study. The most explicit begins at 9 mins 2 secs where an illustration of the word 'plunder' borrowed from German shows a man opening a treasure chest morphing into a drawing of an army uniform with Nazi swastika. Somewhat more subtle are the scenes of English-speaking wartime leaders and the choice of Shakespearean quotation.
  • The film may also be of some use in relation to depth studies in the years 7 and 8 history curriculum about Rome, the Vikings, Medieval Europe and Renaissance Italy. It may make a contribution to students attaining the achievement standards in years 8 and 10 that refer to patterns of change and continuity. The film and case study together may help students attain the part of the year 10 achievement standard about explaining the context for people's actions in the past.
Year level

7; 8; 9; 10

Learning area
  • English
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: British Council
  • Organization: British Council
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: British Council
  • Organization: British Council
  • Description: Publisher
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Unknown
Learning Resource Type
  • Video
  • © British Council, except where indicated otherwise. This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) licence