The English language is the native language for almost 400 million people, and at least double that number of people use English as a second language throughout the world. Today, most professional fields require a basic working knowledge of English, and it is the primary language used in communicating all over the world. In fact, it is the official language of the United Nations.
While English originated with a Germanic people group known as the Anglo-Saxons who conquered Britain in 450 A.D., the language has been transformed and influenced by a great number of people groups. The language of the Anglo-Saxons became Old English when it absorbed influences of the Celtic and Latin speakers they conquered. Norse Vikings soon followed the Anglo-Saxons and brought with them more vocabulary to influence the language.
Later, French Normans conquered much of Britain and heavily infused the language with a certain degree of French. When the English people finally pushed the French out and re-gained the land, the language had been significantly transformed. That era is now known as the Middle English period.
Modern English began with the invention of the printing press in 1476. As more and more books were published, people realized that standard rules of grammar were important, and they began to put them in place. At the same time, the British Empire began to expand all over the world. As English-speaking people interacted and lived with the indigenous populations, they influenced the native languages. Those native speakers in turn influenced the language of the newcomers, which has resulted in many different English dialects across the globe.
The language has continued to assimilate words from other cultures and languages, including ancient Greek and Latin. New words have been created to keep up with industrial and technological changes. Today, it has the largest vocabulary of any language in the world. This is due to the fact that it constantly continues to incorporate words from other languages, and this persistent assimilation makes English a difficult language to learn.