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The Adventure of English Audiobook

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language

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Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.

©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (2132 )
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4.1 (919 )
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4.3 (901 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 10-21-05
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 10-21-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Many Of Course monments"

    Highly recommend to anyone who loves our language, hates our language, or just wants to know where in the world did that come from. Be prepared for the book of lists as my wife called it, but it does not detract from the content. There are many times when you will hear the origin of the word or words and say of course, it makes sense now. This book shows that we speak a living history.

    This book is the best example of an audiobook being better than the written word. The narrator does make the book.

    91 of 91 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ezs 11-09-05
    ezs 11-09-05 Member Since 2006
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    "Comprehensive, engaging and informative"

    Although this book has a running time of just over twelve hours; the listener is soon immersed and lost in this treasury by Melvyn Bragg. Covering the full span of time from the earliest European roots of English to the most current usage - this is a must listen.

    Robert Powell is the perfect reader for this book; his natural style and easy meter really compliment the content.

    37 of 37 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 04-18-06
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 04-18-06 Member Since 2016

    Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.

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    "Very Interesting!!"

    What would seem to be a very dull subject is made rather interesting by this book. There are parts where the book drags, but the chapters of Wycliffe, Tyndale, Shakespeare and the King James Bible are just a few of the intriguing highlights of this book.

    As some have said, this is a book that is probably BETTER as an audiobook. The reader does a GREAT job with old english and many of the dialects. Hearing someone speak ancient versions of the language (rather than trying to figure out what they were supposed to have sounded like) is a BIG bonus with the audiobook version.

    The author also did a great job with describing how dialects occur, even in modern times (such as "Pigeon" dialects). I also thought the discussion of attempts to create a modern "universal" language were quite interesting.

    It was also fascinating to learn how many figures of speech originated with Shakespeare, as well as early versions of the English Bible.

    Definitely well worth the read!

    28 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hugh Asheville, NC, USA 12-12-07
    Hugh Asheville, NC, USA 12-12-07
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    "What a story!"

    I have listened to this twice now, and found it hilarious both times. Now, I must admit that the reader is not perfect. Obviously, he has no idea what "okra" is, much less how to pronounce it. But even that was funny. I know I could not begin to produce the variety of accents required to make this work. What is great is the story. I understand so much about my native language that I never knew before. This should be a High School textbook. It's no wonder that English is such a wierd language. This book explains much.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothea VlaardingenNetherlands 04-11-08
    Dorothea VlaardingenNetherlands 04-11-08
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    "great listen"

    Already listened to this book twice and there will be more times to follow. It's a great listen. Especially enjoyed the chapters about the early and medieval history - fascinating.
    The story is well written, witty, very informative and even thrilling (like history is). Since I am not English I am definitely not the one to criticise the reading - to my ears the narrator does a great job.
    Could not have spent my monthly credit better!

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marius Irene, South Africa 11-18-08
    Marius Irene, South Africa 11-18-08 Member Since 2016
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    "Hugely entertaining and informative"

    Of all of the books I downloaded, I least expected this one to be a gem, but such it is. Superbly narrated by the actor Robert Powell, it tells the fascinating story of the relentless growth of a polyglot mongrel language, never ashamed to borrow or steal words from every language it encountered. Essentially, that seems to have been its greatest strength, insulating it from attack, and allowing it to evolve into the marvellous tongue of Chaucer, Tindale, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse, Waugh and Tolkien, to say nothing of Hunter S Thompson. Melvyn Bragg has written a superb book. My only regret is that he mentioned so few words of South African origin, of which trek, veld, impi, assegaai, stoep and indaba are but a few. One of very few 5 star ratings I have made.

    36 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Allen 05-22-08 Member Since 2011
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    "A great way to relate the story of English"

    "Wow!" That's really all I can say after the last word of this book is spoken! Throughout the book, the author treats the language as a living, breathing, growing entity. And after experiencing this book, I'd say he's right! At times, English is facing persecution and extinction. At other times, English is rolling roughshod over whole nations. The author deals in details of history to make his personification of English stand on two feet. After this book, I have a new found pride to speak a language that has had such a magnificant journey.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Mesa, AZ, USA 05-28-07
    Shawn Mesa, AZ, USA 05-28-07
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    "A Worthwhie Adventure"

    I very much enjoyed this lecture, it was more than I'd expected. Adventure is the correct word for this as we travel through time learning about about the perils English has and does face. I was especially fascinated by the later chapters covering some current languages that are derivatives of English. Suddenly Ebonics as a language made sense to me.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Reston, VA, USA 06-15-07
    Andrew Reston, VA, USA 06-15-07
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    "Fascinating and engrossing!"

    This is definitely one of those books that is better listened to than read, and I agree with the previous reviews that the narrator is to be commended for his ability to pronounce obsolete words and arcane dialects. (Although I must admit that his attempts at an American accent made me cringe a bit.) My only other criticism is a tiny one: the author's claim that the Northeastern US more or less speaks a single, clear spoken dialect. As a native Bostonian, I must object! That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me a new understanding and appreciation of my language and enough trivia fodder to make me a cocktail party liability for quite some time.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 08-08-08
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 08-08-08
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    "TRUELY an Adventure in English and HISTORY."

    Audio: Excellent. Clear, crisp, enunciation. Narrator has a British accent, (and why not, the author is English), and was VERY easily understood by this American. This book is a SPECIAL TREAT as it is actually BETTER TO LISTEN to it than to read it. This is because of the innumerable authentic-sounding pronunciations of English word derivations and origins throughout history. Even if the words are spelled phonetically in the book (and I don't know if they are), I say you cannot beat having them pronounced properly. This REALLY brings the book alive.

    Content: Outstanding. The Adventure of English is an adventure in history also, as it necessarily must be. Celtic, Norse, Friesen (sp?), Norman French, Latin, French, Spanish, u-name-it. England, Normandy, U.S.A., the Carribean, Australia, et al. Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, Chaucer, Tyndale, Philip Sidney, Mark Twain, oh, and Shakespeare of course, to name a few. The subject matter is presented in a personal and personable manner. It is not technical or aloof. Tres facile a' comprendre. N'est-ce pas? I usually read philosophy, politics, current events, and fiction. This book was a very worthwhile departure from that. I highly recommend this book and I will be LISTENING to it again.

    40 of 43 people found this review helpful
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  • Sally
    4/16/10
    Overall
    "Should be read"

    I think this book should be read and not listened to. It's a fascinating subject but one that lends itself to seeing the written word as well as hearing it in order to have an etymological understanding.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Alan Coady
    8/25/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "It's all about the sound"
    If you could sum up The Adventure of English in three words, what would they be?

    Logophile's anthropomorphic dream


    What did you like best about this story?

    This was a lesson in history as much as language. I had been unaware of the contributions of, say, Alfred (The Great) and Henry V to the preservation of the language.


    What about Robert Powell’s performance did you like?

    If anyone required convincing of the qualities of audio books vs. reading, this book would be my choice. Robert Powell is the ideal narrator to familiarise us with: Old-English; Middle-English; uses of English in America, Australia, India, Caribbean, Japan etc.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    You never knew it was in peril so many times...


    Any additional comments?

    This book prompted me to my first use of ‘Clips’ which can be shared with friends by email, txt, WhatsApp etc. Editing them is very straightforward, once you've experimented a little.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jo
    2/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Melvyn at his best!"

    Probably the best commentary on the English language ever. Melvyn Bragg at his best. Anyone who uses English for any reason should read this book.






    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • vickie hunter
    5/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating"

    An enjoyable and fascinating journey through the development of the English language. A social history which lubricates what could otherwise be a rather dry subject, with interesting facts and anecdotes. Extremely well read by Robert Powell.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fiona
    5/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Better than reading the book"

    Accents were essential for the meaning of the text. A job well done...
    This is an essential read for anyone who appreciates the written ( spoken) word.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • C. Edwards
    Leeds U.K.
    2/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A really interesting exploration"

    The origins of English. The way English has fit itself to it's users and been manipulated by groups was fascinating from start to finish.
    If you like English, etymology or linguistics this is a worthwhile listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Phil
    Berkshire, England
    2/10/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Informatively riveting"

    I have been listening to this along with watching the television documentary. Obviously Melvyn Bragg presented the television programme and to hear from the author direct is far better than from a reader. But Robert Powell was excellent and clear in this, explaining the adventures about this wonderful language called English as I would expect from an actor of his calibre. And Mr Bragg is to be congratulated on this excellent book. A pleasure to listen to and much linguistic gossip now to spread!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • M. Griffiths
    12/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pure pleasure"

    This is a gem!
    Bragg is personable and authoritative. He spins the information into an engaging narrative making this a great book with wide appeal.
    Robert Powell also does a great job with multiple accents and faultless delivery. I think that the audiobook would be better that the printed version for this reason.
    Other reviewers have complained about the lists; don't be put off by this they are not intrusive,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom
    10/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Can't get past first chapter"
    What disappointed you about The Adventure of English?

    Should only be read as it has long lists of words


    Would you be willing to try another one of Robert Powell’s performances?

    Robert Powell is great it's the content I can't cope with


    Any additional comments?

    Not good as an audio book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    worthing, west sussex United Kingdom
    8/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Adventure of English"
    Would you listen to The Adventure of English again? Why?

    Yes! This is a difficult, lengthy topic, yet Melvin Bragg manages to make it fascinating and seems to cover every aspect in depth. The social history aspect of the times was made more interesting than most dedicated books on early English history. Well done, Melvin!


    Have you listened to any of Robert Powell’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Robert Powell's narration does the book justice. I cannot think of anyone who could have done a better job. A perfect match. I was very impressed with his narration of both the French and Early English vocabulary. Beautifully, and expertly, done.


    Any additional comments?

    If, like me, you enjoy social history AND the English Language, you will love this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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