While this may be a great "actual" read, it doesn't make a good audio book. The subject matter is interesting, but the book seeks to show how English has roots in different languages like French or Latin by listing all the common words we use that have those roots. And not just one list. There are at least two lists per chapter for something or other (all the words that deal with law, all the words that deal with cooking etc etc etc). This is super tedious and not fun to listen to. Did not hold my attention in any way.
The narrator has a nice voice and he was fine, but I would not recommend this book in audio version, it just didn't translate to the spoken medium.
The adventure in English anthropomorphises the English language and is an interesting take on how English grew, was challenged and became the international tongue it is today. However, once Bragg gets onto the translation of the Bible into English he loses all objectivity. The Church didn't fight Wycliffe because he made an ENGLISH translation. It was because he made a very bad translation and wanted a destructive transformation of society in line with his faulty translation of the Scriptures. At this point there was little need to continue. If Bragg can get this area so wrong, how can I trust the rest of his story?
Robert Powell does an amazing job of pronouncing all the examples in the appropriate Old English, Dutch, German, French and other accents. Very well read.
I was very disappointed that Bragg could so fall for religious propaganda of the reformation period and not attempt to delve a little deeper. If the Church wanted to keep the scriptures from the people, as Bragg claims, why did they have all the artwork and stained glass windows depicting bible stories and lessons? Most people couldn't read, so even if the bible was in English, it wouldn't have helped. The Church was the main source of learning and instructions to read so more could come to love the scriptures.
I was so amazed, the book has been removed from my system, as such a basic misunderstanding of history makes his whole argument flawed.
Recomend for anyone who is interested in language or history, and since the two are always braided together, you won't be disappointed by this book. The narration is superb, which makes listening to this book much better than reading so you don't have to muddle your way through the pronunciation of ancient "gutteral Germanic" words.
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
A masterpiece of meticulous linguistic and historical research made intelligible to the interested laymen. So exquisite is the elocution of the narrator, so impressive is his mastery of several spoken languages, that it must be heard, not merely read.
This book was such a disappointment. Perhaps the second half would have been better but I couldn't get there. I am shocked that it received high ratings from others - what a disappointment. I want my credits back!
This suffers in comparison to the Great Lectures series on the History of the English language. Those lectures kept me awake and interested. This was soporific rather than an adventure. (An anesthetic, balmy, calming, deadening, dozy, drowsy, dull, hypnotic, mesmerizing, narcotic, nodding, numbing, opiate, quietening, sedative, slumberous, snoozy, somniferous, somnolent, soothing, tranquilizing).
The author did a wonderful job writing an entertaining history of the English language and the narrator truly adds to the experience. Hearing the comparisons between English words to the words in other languages from which they evolved is wonderful. I'll admit that as an American I'm learning a fair amount of British history along the way as well.
The book answers the fundamental question why English outshines all other languages and why it is the "reserve linguistic currency" of the civilized world. Bragg does this not only by (pedantically) charting the sequential evolution of the language but also by describing its singular adaptability to its changing habitat, up to the modern day. A people gets the kind of language it deserves. A good companion piece would be Churchill's "A History of the English Speaking Peoples".
I have a physical copy of this book, which I found quite heavy going - however, Robert Powell's narration made all the difference. He manages to get his tongue around Old English so well that I actually understood the words, even though they are so different to the English of today. The tale of the growth of the language is fast paced and exciting, with many new insights. I did find the odd list of words quite tiresome at first, until I understood why they were included.
Overall, I think this is an excellent book for anyone who loves the English language, and wants to understand its roots