Since we’re nearly at Christmas and hopefully lots of readers will be getting a nice long holiday, I thought I’d draw your attention to a new series of radio shows on languages.

On BBC Radio 4 over the next couple of weeks the series, titled Word of Mouth, will explore “the world of words and the ways in which we use them”. The first programme was about the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library, and was broadcast last night but is repeated on the 27th December. One of the guests on the show will be David Crystal, who I posted about yesterday as one of the Guardian’s Heroes of the Year.

Michael Rosen, the presenter of the series, also has an accompanying article on the BBC News site. It aims to give a brief history of the English language. An excerpt from the article:

Slowly, another international language emerged, spoken by diplomats, scientists, artists, business people and many more. Benefiting from the legacy of the British Empire, and the rise in influence of the most powerful member of that Empire – the USA – English (or kinds of English) is being spoken all over the globe.

In truth, they speak what the linguist David Crystal calls “Englishes”, though some ways of talking are what have been called “creoles”, “pidgins” and “patois”. I was watching an Austrian pop music channel recently and the comments and ads were in an Anglo-German Creole whose core was German, but which was full of “go to it”, “cool”, “be there” and the like.

Most of this has gone on without direction from governments. The technologies of telephones, radio, TV, records, CDs, mobile phones and the internet have enabled most people in the world to get access to each other’s language in a matter of moments.

Through these channels, millions of young people across the world have grown to like the sounds produced by English-speaking bands. Sub-titled films from Hollywood have given millions of non-English speakers the chance to imitate James Cagney, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford.