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English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family that was originally spoken by the population of early mediaeval England. It is the official language of the United Kingdom. In honour of Anglia, a peninsula on the Baltic Sea (not to be confused with East Anglia), and the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that moved to the region of Great Britain that subsequently became known as England, the country was called. The Low Saxon and Frisian languages are among the living languages that are most closely related to English, but English's lexicon has been considerably affected by Old Norman French and Latin, as well as by other Germanic languages, notably Old Norse (a North Germanic language).

Over the period of more than 1,400 years, the English language has evolved. Old English refers to the oldest versions of English, which are a collection of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects that were introduced to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the 5th century and known as the Old English language. Middle English originated in the late 11th century with the Norman invasion of England, and it was during this era that English was impacted by Old French, particularly via its Old Norman accent, that the language became known as Middle English. When the printing press was first introduced to London in the late 15th century, the printing of the King James Bible, and the beginning of the Great Vowel Shift all took place, early modern English became established.

Considering Chinese dialects and variations, English is the most spoken language in the world (after Standard Chinese and Spanish), and the third-most spoken native language in the world (after Standard Chinese and Spanish). Almost 60 sovereign nations use it as their official language or as one of their official languages, making it one of the most extensively taught second languages in the world. There are more persons who have learnt English as a second language than there are native speakers of the language in question. As of 2005, it was projected that there were more than 2 billion native English speakers worldwide. Besides being the majority native language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (see Anglosphere), and Ireland, English is also an official language and the primary language of Singapore, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. A co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union, and a slew of other global and regional organisations, it is also known as a second language. It is the most commonly used German language in the world, accounting for at least 70% of all speakers of this Indo-European branch of the language family. "Anglophones" are people that speak English as a second language. Even though there is a great deal of variation among the many accents and dialects of English that are spoken in different countries and regions, there is no significant difference in phonetics and phonology (and occasionally also in vocabulary, idioms, grammar, and spelling), and this does not typically prevent understanding by speakers of other dialects and accents, although mutual unintelligibility can happen at extreme ends of the dialect continuum.