Have you ever wondered why English pronunciation differs so much from written language?

When was the English language born?

Who invaded Britain?

What were these invaders like? What did they eat and drink? What were they like?

Basically, the history of the English language is dived into tree periods called Old English or Anglo Saxon, Middle English and Modern English. Old English came into being in the 5th century A.D., when the Germanic tribes migrated to England from what are now northern Germany and Denmark.


The languages spoken by these tribes fused together into Old English


(In this video you can see how English was evolved)



Old English

Which language did these tribes speak?

The invading tribes spoke similar languages (all of them shared the same language branch), which in Britain developed into what we call Old English. Old English didn’t sound or look like English today. Native English speakers now would have great difficulty understanding Old English. Nevertheless, around half of the most commonly used words in PdE (Present-Day English) have Old English roots. The words be, strong or water, for instance, derive from Old English.

What did the Old English sound like?

Old English was closer to modern Dutch or German. All letters were pronounced. There are many sounds which don’t turn up in PdE like the /x/ or /ç/ which appear after a back or front vowel (when there’s an <h>). Actually, the word “right” was not pronounced as /rait/, instead, it was /riçt/.

If you hear it spoken or read aloud, you  may be able to get an idea of what you’re hearing, but in general, you would have to study it like another foreign understand it. Let’s see an example from the Beowulf:

Old English (from Beowulf):

Hwæt! Wē Gār
Dena   in geārdagum
cyninga                        þrym gefrūnon,
hū þā æðelingas         ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scēfing       sceaðena þrēatum,

Old English Reviews


What were Anglo-Saxon villages like?


Anglo-Saxons houses were huts made of wood with roofs covered with straw.

Saxons houses may have looked like as the one in West Stow (English Midlands). Here, an early Anglo-Saxon village (5th century-7th century) has been reconstructed where it was excavated. Using clues from what was found, archeologists have managed to reconstruct many houses as they may have looked about 1,5000 years ago.


In here, you can find a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon house built over a pit:

Anglo-Saxon Villages

Anglo Saxon villages were usually very small. The largest villages had no more than a few hundred people living there.

The villages were built close to natural resources. The villagers needed food, water, fuel for heating and materials for their clothes. The natural resources provided them with what they needed to survive.

The village also needed to protect itself. All round the village was a high fence to keep them safe at night from enemies and many wild animals of the forests, such as: wolves, foxes and boars.

The Anglo-Saxons grew crops, kept pigs, sheep and cattle, and hunted fish for food. They also made household goods and farm equipment from wood, metal and pottery, clothes from cloth they wove themselves. They traded goods and slaves for things they couldn’t make, like glass, with people from other countries.

What did they use to eat and drink?

arado  The Anglo-Saxons loved eating and drinking. The food was cooked over the fire in the middle of the house.

They drank ale and mead (it was a pretty sweet beverage, basically made of honey).

They didn’t drink river water because it was often polluted. Wine was imported from the Mediterranean, but only the upper classes could afford to drink it.

What did they eat?

Anglo-Saxons ate what they grew.

They grew:pan

  • Cereals – Wheat and rye for bread, barley (for brewing) and oats (for animal food).
  • Vegetables – carrots, parsnip, cabbages, peas, beans and onions.
  • fruit – apples, cherries and plums


You can try and make some German bread, which is pretty similar to the one these people used to eat.

Most Anglo-Saxons were vegetarians because they couldn’t get meat very often (it was really expensive, indeed). Animals such as deer and wild boar were common, but only a few Anglo-Saxons were rich enough to pay for a slaughter of an animal.


The Anglo-Saxons ate fish caught in the rivers and the seas.

Did they follow any religion?

The Anglo-Saxons were pagans when they came to Britain, but, as time went by, they gradually converted to Christianity. Many of the customs we have in England today come from pagan festivals.

Pagans worshiped lots of different gods:

Balder God of Immortality
Eostre Goddess of Birth
Frigg Goddess of Love
Hel Goddess of Death
Loki God of Cunning
Saxnot God of the Family
Thunor God of Thunder
Tiw God of War
Wade God of the Sea
Wayland God of Metalworking
Woden Chief God

Days of the Week
Certain days of the week are named after early Saxon Gods.

calendarioMonandæg ( Moon’s day – the day of the moon ),
( Tiw’s-day – the day of the Scandinavian sky god Tiw,Tiu or Tig), Wodnesdæg ( Woden’s day – the day of the god Woden (Othin) ),
( Thor’s Day – the day of the god Ðunor or Thunor ),
( Freyja’s day – the day of the goddess Freyja or Frigg, wife to Woden),
( Saturn’s day – the day of the Roman god Saturn, whose festival “Saturnalia,” with its exchange of gifts, has been incorporated into our celebration of Christmas.),
( Sun’s day – the day of the sun ).

What did they dress like?

Men wore tunics and trousers, whereas women wore woolen and linen dresses with a pinafore over it. Their clothes were fastened with belts.

Who invaded Britain after the three Germanic tribes?

In the 9th c, 400 hundred years after the Anglo-Saxons invation, the country came under attack from the Vikings ( raiders from Norway and northern Denmark).

Like the Anglo-Saxons, they made their home here and drove the Saxons out of a part of England in order to take the conquered land for themselves. Since then, the country became divided into two (some parts were ruled by the Vikings, whereas othes by the Saxons).

The Vikings

What did the Vikings eat and drink?

Most Vikings were farmers. They kept: horses, goats and sheep for milk and meat.

 Cererals were grown to make bread and beer. They cooked meat in a big stew-pot over the fire, or roasted it on an iron spit.Viking_Boat

Meat and fish were sometimes smoked to keep it for weeks.

You can get an online tour through the British Museum, and visit the Anglo-Saxon and Viking’s rooms

Curious facts (Lefty Vikings)

lefty-vikingsThere were left-handed Vikings!!

Although, people at that time were superstitious, there were left-handed warriors too. Probably, this would have been completely different among Catholics, who persecuted lefty people for being cursed (because the Devil was guiding their left hands while fighting).

When it came to fighting, the left-handed person had a huge advantage. He was able to defeat right-handed fighters who were actually much better than him (just as a left- handed tennis or fencing player today has the advantage over the right-handed counterpart).

Nowadays, many scientists believe that left-handers could have a fighting or sporting advantage, but it isn’t a question of speed. Actually, left-handers may possess enlarged right hemispheres, giving them spatial skills.

Apparently, the advantage is more tactical than neurological. You can get more information about this in here:

History of the American English

The Rhotic accent

rBasically, English accents in the British Isles, the USA and throughout the world can be broken down into two sets: some of them are called rhotic and some are called non-rhotic.

English had become non-rhotic by the end of the 18th century. In 1776, both American and British accents were mainly rhotic. It was around this time when non-rhotic speech took off in the south of England, especially among the nobility. This “prestige” of talking non-rhotic was standardized, and it became to spread in Britain ever since.

There are some tips for working on your voice to make the rhotic accent:


Thanksgiving webquest


pavoIn this webquest you will do some research about one of American’s most beloved celebrations throughout three different tasks.


  • Group organization: groups of 3 or 4 students. All of them do all the tasks.
  • Number of sessions: 5
  • Level: 3º E.S.O (bilingual group)


1.     The history of Thanksgiving celebration

Make a power point presentation about the history of Thanksgiving. This links can help you out.

2.     The Pilgrim’s journey to America on the Mayflower

Complete the following task. Once you are done, you will have to hand this in to me, in order to mark it for accuracy and grade it accordingly.

  • Write a letter, pretending to be a Pilgrim like William Bradford (the future governor of the Plymouth Plantation). You will have to make a description about pilgrim’s lives in the New World. There is a link in here, where you can find some pilgrim’s letters to follow them through.

  • Answer the following questions:

What can we learn about the Pilgrims’ new surroundings from the William Bradford’s journal?

What was the name of the book written by William Bradford?

What did the Pilgrims want to build at the site of the rock? Why?

Who was the captain of the ship called The Mayflower? Does his name ring a bell?

3.     Thanksgiving Dinner

In this task, you will have to plan a Thanksgiving meal for your group. Use the recipes found online to make a shopping list for the menu and party supplies. Bear in mind that you only have £ 150; it means you should spend your budget wisely.

You shouldn’t go over budget.

After making your shopping list, draw a chart and write in it how much money your group spent on each item.

Little help     Basically, Americans eat turkey with some stuffing inside, cranberry sauce (for the filling), mashed potatoes drizzled with some sweet gravy, green beans and pumpkin pie.

There are some handful websites for ideas on recipes:

  • Evaluation rubric:


  • Conclusion The main goal of this webquest is letting you know more about Thanksgiving, and what it means as a whole. At the end of this activity, you will be able to speak and write about this celebration using concepts and ideas that you did not know before