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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.

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fascinating journey into the origins and history

Would you listen to The Adventure of English again? Why?

There were so many interesting stories about how words, phrases and other facets of the language emerged, I would enjoy re-reading it to be reminded of them.

Any additional comments?

Would be enjoyed by anyone who finds words and their origins interesting.

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  • Percy
  • Orlando, FL
  • 05-22-12

Interesting things about English

Would you consider the audio edition of The Adventure of English to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version, but I know this was better. Robert Powell speaks all of the languages and dialects so well ..... they come alive.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I'm a Soldier in Afghanistan. I’ve been on an adventure. No not in Afghanistan, thought the same could be said my stay here. This is “The Adventure of English”, a book that I have undertaken by Melvyn Bragg. Without TV for distraction when I am not exercising or working during my average day from 5 AM until 10 PM I read for recreation. In the 9 months I’ve been here that has taken me through 51 paper books, eBooks and audio books. In the over 5640 pages and 276 hours of listening, few books have been as interesting, entertaining and informative as “The Adventure of English”. If you are a reader, listener or interested in amazing historical stories this book is well worth the cost in money and time. You’ll be surprised at what has gone into creating the language we speak today. PGP

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Compelling, humorous story and great performance

This is a great story about the evolution of the English language. The author clearly loves the language and revels in its adaptability and flexibility.

He reviews major players that have influenced the language: Tyndale, Wycliffe, King James, Shakespeare.

If you are interested in understanding the English Language, then this is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

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History of English told as a good detective story

If you could sum up The Adventure of English in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating, unexpected, scholarly

Who was your favorite character and why?

The writer himself. His enthusiasm for his subject, the development of the English language, enlivened what could have been a dry tale. He knew when to draw on one of the personalities in history (Alfred the Great, Chaucer, a British bureaucrat in India) and even his own childhood experiences as a speaker of an English dialect to put us into that period as it was experienced at the time.

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

I have not, but I'd happily listen to him again. He did a particularly masterful job pronouncing the many words from Norse, Old English, French, or even 20th c. dialects that turned up regularly in the text.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. As a history it was nice to have the centuries unfold and take time to digest each period.

Any additional comments?

This book is full of nuggets of information that I kept wanting to share. The scope is broad, and slightly less strong in the most recent centuries, but the first two thirds are riveting. The author treats the language as an almost living thing, evolving through periods of explosive growth, or responding to threats of extinction, taking us through all the unexpected twists in its development like a proud parent.

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Great Read

What made the experience of listening to The Adventure of English the most enjoyable?

I have never really liked the English language for more reasons than it was the only class I failed growing up. Though I love writing I just didn't appreciate it, and though I still find it lacking qualities that that other languages may have I love what it took to get it here. The adventure that English has taken to get to this point is rather amazing. The book is way better as an audio book due in part to the many different languages spoken throughout the book. But i do say that the visual aids given in the book are great companions as you listen. Best book for me thus far this year.

Who was your favorite character and why?

the fight between French and English

Which scene was your favorite?

i really liked the sware words section. was very informitive.

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A real treat

What did you love best about The Adventure of English?

The history of English is fascinating, but even better when narrated by someone who seems able to fluently read in all the different dialects. I am sure I would not have enjoyed this book reading it myself and struggling to attempt the various dialects, since I am not a student of those languages. Hearing the old languages spoken fluentlyadded another dimension to the experience.

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  • Philip
  • Upper Hutt, New Zealand
  • 04-16-12

A most original idea for a biography....

What did you love best about The Adventure of English?

This was quite a departure from Melvin Braggs novels; unexpectedly a refreshing change. It made me marvel at our language and how it had evolved - in a rather Darwinian way. Now I do understand a lot more than I did about the curious anomalies we have acquired in our language and why it is so impossibly 'irregular'. Very well researched (from my lay point of view anyway).

What other book might you compare The Adventure of English to and why?

I cannot think of any I have read like this.

What about Robert Powell’s performance did you like?

Truly wonderful. Quite impressed by his ability to convey this complex language within its historical context - especially his convincing attempts at old English. One wonders how much Direction from Bragg was given.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No extreme ones but then it was a field I knew nothing about so I found it enlightening and educational. I could not stop listening. That is always my marker for a good book.

Any additional comments?

No. Well worth the read especially if you are interested in linguistics or just want to know where our language came from and how it evolved to modern times.

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Well researched

I enjoyed this history of the English language. It is well narrated. If you have an interest in this subject, this book does an excellent job in telling it from the beginning to today.

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  • Jann
  • Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
  • 04-11-12

Outstanding Listen

What made the experience of listening to The Adventure of English the most enjoyable?

The reader was fantastic and I loved listening to the old dialects

What other book might you compare The Adventure of English to and why?

I have listened to this book 3 times already as there is such a vast amount of different areas he covers

Which scene was your favorite?

I loved the section on Australia, although each section was great in its own right

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

N/A

Any additional comments?

I have recommended this book to all of my friends. You don't have to love English or history to enjoy this book. It is so interesting on so many levels

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I took a chance on this and it paid off.

I do read a fair amount of history books, but this topic didn't especially interest me in advance. I just figured I probably should know something about where English comes from. Very pleasantly surprised. A lot of information ina short time. Some fascinating insights into how languages work generally and there are scores of words I think about differently now. Also, the narrator is perfect for this. How did they even find someone who could do the old English so well?