Many people view the English language as a melting pot composed of other languages. The United States along with other English speaking countries, such as England, Ireland Canada, Australia and South Africa are melting pots as well. However, many people do not understand what a melting pot is, and therefore, cannot wholly appreciate how English as a language has developed. Only after comprehending the definition of a melting pot, and what goes into the “stew”, can the benefits be truly appreciated.
What is a Melting Pot?
In terms of language, a melting pot is an environment, atmosphere, or language, into which many different ideas, cultures, races, and languages assimilate. Food is an excellent metaphor for understanding the melting pot theory. Just as different ingredients go into a soup pot individually and cook down together to make a meal, so do other languages and cultures influence English as it evolves into something bigger.
What Languages Comprise the Melting Pot?
There is literally not enough space to talk about every single language that has gone into the English melting pot over time, but several have made an enormous impact. Complete assimilation is rare, because inborn culture is an inherent part of any individual. Even if someone immigrates to an English speaking country, learns the language, and takes on the customs, certain aspects of his or her original language and customs remain. American English, U.K. English, Spanish, French, Italian, African dialects, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many other languages have gone into making English what it is today.
The Mixing of Cultures
When cultures mix, it is only natural that the different languages they represent begin to mix and meld together as well. For example, an Italian immigrates to an English speaking country and learns the language. However, he will continue to speak Italian as well. Because of this, English influences the Italian language by incorporating words that have never been spoken in Italy. The same is true for English, which has borrowed words and phrases from other languages and cultures, evolving and developing into what it is today.
How English Evolves
English is by no means static, but rather it is a highly fluid, constantly evolving language. When Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales, English was spoken rather than written and spellings changed from one page to the next. Now that English is a largely written language, it is easy to see where different words have crept in from other languages. Most of the language's words are Latin and Greek in origin, but now there is clearly French, Spanish, and Italian words added to the mix, in addition to words from many other languages as well.
With all of this in mind, it is easy to see how certain English speaking countries have developed their own mannerisms in the way that they write and speak. This also creates difficulties for non-English speaking individuals who are attempting to master the written English word; and also why the English dictionary needs to be updated on a yearly basis.