Old English is very different from Modern English, and is difficult for 21st-century English speakers to understand.
Some scholars have argued that English can be considered a mixed language or a creole—a theory called the Middle English creole hypothesis.
The variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions—in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar, and spelling—can often be understood by speakers of different dialects, but in extreme cases can lead to confusion or even mutual unintelligibility between English speakers.
Old English originated from a Germanic tribal and linguistic continuum along the Frisian North Sea coast, whose languages gradually evolved into the Anglic languages in the British Isles, and into the Frisian languages and Low German/Low Saxon on the continent.
It is estimated that there are over 2 billion speakers of English.
English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia.
The opening to the Old English epic poem Beowulf, handwritten in half-uncial script: Hƿæt ƿē Gārde/na ingēar dagum þēod cyninga / þrym ge frunon..."Listen!
We of the Spear-Danes from days of yore have heard of the glory of the folk-kings..." The earliest form of English is called Old English or Anglo-Saxon (c. Old English developed from a set of North Sea Germanic dialects originally spoken along the coasts of Frisia, Lower Saxony, Jutland, and Southern Sweden by Germanic tribes known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.The Frisian languages, which together with the Anglic languages form the Anglo-Frisian languages, are the closest living relatives of English.Low German/Low Saxon is also closely related, and sometimes English, the Frisian languages, and Low German are grouped together as the Ingvaeonic (North Sea Germanic) languages, though this grouping remains debated.Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs had many more inflectional endings and forms, and word order was much freer than in Modern English.Modern English has case forms in pronouns (he, him, his) and has a few verb inflections (speak, speaks, speaking, spoke, spoken), but Old English had case endings in nouns as well, and verbs had more person and number endings.It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organisations.