English has its roots in what languages?

Some features of the grammar and much of the basic vocabulary in everyday use are derived from West Germanic, the common ancestor of English, Dutch, German and Frisian. Most of the rest of the vocabulary comes from Latin, in many cases by way of French.

My students ask this all the time, as they strive to learn English as a second language and wind up confused!

English is a very free evolving language, and continues to take in new vocabulary even to this day.

Traditionally, English is an amalgam of Germanic and Old French influences. The Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, all contributed to the evolution of our language. Some words are Arabic, like caravan or oasis.

In England, partly due to the lay of the land and political affiliations, each area of the country had its own variation of pronunciation and vocabulary. Some areas, like Wales, continue to use language unlike the rest of the country. That's why many English words don't sound like they are spelled (eg. plough) and we have very lax rules. Many words came to us through invaders, traders and even slaves brought from other countries, much the same as religion, tools and innovative ideas.

Now English takes on words from all over the world! Sushi! Fung Sheui!

English shares a common ancestor with German and Dutch. It has significant influence from Old Norse and from French. In addition, many words have been borrowed directly from Latin and Greek and some other languages.