This charming site from the BBC offers a brief animated summary of British history and the development of the English language from 449 A.D. to the present. Users can read about the linguistic, historical and political influences on English and follow along while source documents are read using the pronunciation of the time.
Type of Material:
This site could be used in a beginning linguistics course to demonstrate influences on language development. In a survey of English literature, it could provide an introduction to the sounds and structures of English during the period being studied. In any relevant course, it could serve as an introduction to the history of the English language or to major events in any period of British history.
The animated timeline uses Flash, but a non-Flash alternative is available.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The material provides a brief history of language development in a historical context. It could be used in a variety of ways to allow students to learn about historical, political and linguistic influences on English.
Target Student Population:
Advanced middle school, high school, general college level courses, and perhaps introductory linguistic and survey courses. College and general audiences will find it interesting but rather brief.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Some knowledge of the historical context of each of the designated eras will be helpful, though much of the context is given.
The material is attractive and easy to use. Most audiences would find it informational and entertaining.
The fact that it is a timeline and therefore does not go into depth about any of the influences on language could limit the site's usefulness in some contexts.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
As a primer to a study of English, this could be a very effective site because it is so engaging and is fun to use. It could also appeal to a broad range, in both age and ability, of students from middle school to college.
The clicking sounds may be distracting to some students.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is relatively easy to use once you realize the various objects on the screen are "portals" to different aspects of the discussion. For example, the spinning globe brings up a discussion of the outside influences on the language.
It might take a minute for an uninitiated user to figure out that the different icons on the picture lead to different aspects of the discussion. In addition, the fact that the ten period profiles are identical in format might tempt some students to skip over some of the material.
Other Issues and Comments:
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