This highly entertaining BBC Radio 4 series is written and presented by Bill Bryson and based on his best-selling book Mother Tongue. In it, he romps through the history of Britain to reveal how English became such an infuriatingly complex - but ultimately world-beating - language.
But why English? Why don't we speak Gallic, or any other of the European languages? According to Bryson, it's down to the remarkable ability for the English language to assimilate other vocabularies, to adapt and - above all - to survive.
From the old English words that are still in everyday use, such as 'eat', 'drink', 'man' and 'wife', to the current hybrid language of the 21st century with its many diverse dialects, Bryson, in his unique and ever-affable style, guides us through the development of English into a rich and expressive language.
Bryson explains how English has been shaped through invasion and conquest, as well as the rules that brought order to a disorderly language, the million and one ways to have fun with the English language, and the struggle with phrasal verbs (including the way things often get lost in the translation). And finally, he contemplates the future of English. Does Estuary English really Rule OK?
©2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd; (P)2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
I'm a keen, if eclectic, reader.
English. Many of us who speak and read it take it for granted. But what a marvellous history it possesses.
Bill Bryson has a talent for taking complicated academic subjects and turning them into compelling stories; full of quirky anecdotes, unusual facts and memorable characters. This six-part radio series is a great example of that talent.
The story of English is fascinating. And more fascinating being told by Bryson and his collection of experts.
Anything Bill Bryson has done recently gets my vote - but his audio books are great, as long as they are read by himself (the other narrator who does his work rather irritates me). Journeys in English is so supremely interesting and yet an easy listen too, that I have listened to it several times. A feat only beaten by his other two fabulous books (At Home and A Brief History) which I have also listened to multiple times.
All I can hope is that he releases some more audio books before I learn his current ones verbatim.
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