Learn English with Freakonomics

The Origins of Language

Published: 6.07.2021
Level 5   |   Time: 4:08
Accent: American

TOEFL: The first clip about how English became the dominant world language and the (unfair) advantages it gives its speakers.


You can download the file [ HERE ].


triangle Directions 목표 Direcciones Instruções


    It is important to read the vocabulary before you watch the video. This will improve your ability to understand the video. It will also help you understand how the new vocabulary is used naturally.

  2. WATCH the VIDEO

    The first time you watch the video, just try to understand the overall situation.


    First try to answer all the questions from memory. Then rewatch the video and try to answer the questions that you missed.

  4. WATCH and READ the SCRIPT

    Watch the video again while you read the script. Reading and listening at the same time will help you hear each individual word and improve your listening accuracy.


    There are several different activities that focus on test preparation, vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure.


    Es importante leer el vocabulario antes de ver el video. Esto mejorará su capacidad para comprender el video. También le ayudará a comprender cómo se usa el nuevo vocabulario de forma natural.

  2. VER el VIDEO

    La primera vez que vea el video, intente comprender la situación general.


    Primero intente responder todas las preguntas de memoria. Luego, vuelva a ver el video e intente responder las preguntas que se perdió.


    Mire el video nuevamente mientras lee el guión. Leer y escuchar al mismo tiempo lo ayudará a escuchar cada palabra individual y mejorará su precisión auditiva.


    Hay una serie de actividades diferentes que se centran en la preparación de la examen, el vocabulario, la gramática y la estructura de las oraciones.

  1. 어휘 읽기

    비디오를 보기 전에 어휘와 배경을 읽는 것이 중요합니다. 이렇게 하면 비디오를 이해하는 능력이 향상됩니다. 또한 새로운 어휘가 어떻게 자연스럽게 사용되는지 이해하는데 도움이됩니다.

  2. 비디오 보기

    비디오를 처음 볼 때 전체 상황을 이해하려고 노력하세요.

  3. 문제에 답하기

    먼저 모든 질문에 답을 해보세요. 그런 다음 비디오를 다시보고 놓친 질문에 답해보세요.

  4. 비디오 보면서 대본 읽기

    대본을 읽는 동안 비디오를 다시 보세요. 읽기와 듣기를 동시에 하면 각각의 단어를 듣고, 듣기 정확도를 향상시킬 수 있습니다.

  5. 액티비티 하기

    듣기 정확도, 발음, 어휘, 문법 및 문장 구조에 초점을 맞춘 다양한 액티비티가 있습니다.


    É importante ler o vocabulário antes de assistir ao vídeo. Isso melhorará sua capacidade de entender o vídeo. Também ajudará você a entender como o novo vocabulário é usado naturalmente.


    Na primeira vez que assistir ao vídeo, tente entender a situação geral.


    Primeiro, tente responder a todas as perguntas de memória. Em seguida, assista novamente ao vídeo e tente responder às perguntas que você errou.


    Assista ao vídeo novamente enquanto lê o roteiro. Ler e ouvir ao mesmo tempo ajudará você a ouvir cada palavra individualmente e a melhorar sua precisão auditiva.


    Existem várias atividades diferentes que se concentram na preparação para o teste, vocabulário, gramática e estrutura de frases.

triangle Vocabulary 어휘 Vocabulário Vocabulario

  • ☐ ☐ ☐ primates [n] - apes, humans
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ hairy [adj] - having a lot of hair
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ infants [n] - babies
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ foraging [n] - looking for food (nuts, berries)
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ coo [v] - a soft sound that a mother makes to calm down a baby
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ scavenge [v] - look for food (already killed animals)
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ incentive [n] - motivation
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ gossip [n] - talking about people who are not there (rumors)
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ utilitarian [adj] - useful
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ transaction cost [n] - cost of using something
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ bloom [v] - become popular
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ swell [adj] - good / nice
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ inherently [adv] - a quality that exists in something naturally
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ Telephone [n] - a game of whispering something from person to person to person
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ linguist diversity [n] - many different languages
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ linguist splintering [n] - one language splitting into two or more languages over time
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ eat up [phv] - destroy, eliminate
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ rapacious imperial power [n] - a greedy country that conquers other countries

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb, [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Comprehension Questions 이해력 검사 문제 Perguntas de compreensão Preguntas de comprensión

  1. What are the three theories that the professor mentions for the origin of language?
    To calm down children
    To scavenge large animals
    To trade things between groups

  2. Which theory does the professor think is most likely to be true?
    To calm down children
    To scavenge large animals
    To trade things between groups

  3. According to the professor, what is the difference between most primates and humans?
    Humans are larger than most primates.
    Humans are weaker than most primates.
    Humans have less hair than most primates.

  4. Why is hair important for raising children?
    It keeps children warm.
    It allows children to hold on to their mother.
    The smell of a mother's hair calms down children.

  5. Why do scavengers need language?
    To work together scavenging very large animals
    To decide how to divide large animals
    To give names to the animals that they scavenge

  6. The host thinks that having one universal language _____.
    would be impossible
    would be more efficient
    would be less efficient

  7. According to the professor, languages tend to change because _____.
    people hear things differently over time
    some sounds are impossible to reproduce
    people need new words

  8. The host compares the change of language over time to _____.
    talking to people far away
    talking on the telephone
    playing a game of telephone

  9. The professor states that _____ change over time.
    all languages
    most languages
    some languages

  10. The host suggests that there would be less language diversity if ancient people _____.
    had looked at the clouds more
    had invented written language earlier
    had lived in larger communities

  11. The professor says that written language was invented _____.
    10 minutes ago
    10 centuries ago
    relatively recently in human history

  12. The professor states that about _____ languages are severly endangered.

  13. The 20 most common languages _____.
    are the easiest languages to learn
    have stopped changing
    are helping eliminate many of the smaller languages

  14. According to the professor, English _____.
    is the best language to study
    is difficult to learn
    is having the most success
    is now being driven by America
    has a history of greedy imperialism

  15. When the professor mentions a "rapacious imperial power", he means _____.
    the English language
    the United States

triangle TOEFL Questions TOEFL 문제 Perguntas do TOEFL Preguntas de TOEFL

  1. What is the discussion mainly about?
    (A) The history of language and language diversity.
    (B) The reasons why only humans developed language.
    (C) The benefits of learning English.
    (D) The differences between languages.

  2. According to the conversation, which of the following statements about language are true? [Choose three answers.]
    (A) Language may have started with people singing.
    (B) Language may have started so parents could calm their children when not being held.
    (C) Language probably started so that humans could scavenge in large groups.
    (D) Language may have started so that people could trade animals between groups.

  3. According to the professor, why is having hair helpful for female primates?
    (A) Infant primates are protected from severe weather by their mother's hair.
    (B) Infant primates are protected from disease by their mother's hair.
    (C) Infant primates can hold on to their mother's hair, so the mothers don't have to put them down.
    (D) Infant primates feel more relaxed when they can smell their mother's hair.

  4. According to professor, how does language change?
    (A) People hear and then reproduce sounds differently over time.
    (B) People create new words over time.
    (C) People often write down what they hear in different ways.
    (D) People change sounds and words so that they can't be understood by enemies.

  5. What does the host mean when he says this?

    (A) Language is like talking to people far away.
    (B) Language changes when people talk on the telephone.
    (C) Language change is similar to playing a game of telephone.
    (D) The invention of the telephone made language change more quickly.

  6. According to the professor, what percentage of languages change?
    (A) 100%
    (B) about 50%
    (C) less than 50%
    (D) It is impossible to know.

  7. What can you infer about the relationship between written and spoken language?
    (A) Written language was first used long before spoken language.
    (B) Spoken language was first used long before written language.
    (C) Spoken language was first used a little before written language.
    (D) Spoken and written language were first used at about the same time.

  8. What does the host mean when he says this?

    (A) Written language was invented 10 minutes ago.
    (B) Written language was invented 10 centuries ago.
    (C) Written language was invented long ago.
    (D) Written language was invented relatively recently in human history.

  9. How many languages are severely endangered?
    (A) 1000
    (B) 3500
    (C) 7000
    (D) 70 000

  10. Which of the following points does the professor NOT make?
    (A) English is the primary language of science and research.
    (B) English is currently the most successful language.
    (C) The current popularity of English is mainly due to American influence.
    (D) The dominance of English can be attributed to imperialism.

triangle Sentence Building (Summary) 문장 만들기 Construção de sentença Construcción de oraciones [ ? ]


This activity is designed to improve sentence accuracy and complexity. Most students can produce the key content words in a sentence. However, they have difficulty with accuracy because the functional words are difficult or can seem unimportant. This activity will help learners eliminate problems with these functional words by giving them immediate feedback on the mistakes they are making. It will also help students develop their use of more natural, varied and complex sentence structures.

TIP: Say the sentence out loud. Notice the types of mistake you make often. Focus on those types of errors. (singular/plural, subject-verb agreement, article use, prepositions, gerunds and infinitives, noun clauses, adjective clauses, word order, and word forms.)


Esta actividad está diseñada para mejorar la precisión y complejidad de las oraciones. La mayoría de los estudiantes pueden producir las palabras clave del contenido en una oración. Sin embargo, tienen dificultades con la precisión porque las palabras funcionales son difíciles o pueden parecer poco importantes. Esta actividad ayudará a los alumnos a eliminar problemas con estas palabras funcionales al brindarles retroalimentación inmediata sobre los errores que están cometiendo. También ayudará a los estudiantes a desarrollar su uso de estructuras de oraciones más naturales, variadas y complejas.

CONSEJO: Diga la oración en voz alta. Observe los tipos de errores que comete con frecuencia. Concéntrese en ese tipo de errores. (singular / plural, concordancia entre sujeto y verbo, uso del artículo, preposiciones, gerundios e infinitivos, cláusulas sustantivas, cláusulas adjetivas, orden de las palabras y formas de las palabras).


이 액티비티는 문장의 정확성과 복잡성을 개선하기 위해 고안되었습니다. 대부분의 학생들은 문장에서 핵심 내용 단어를 생성 할 수 있습니다. 그러나 기능적 단어가 어렵거나 중요하지 않은 것처럼 보일 수 있기 때문에 정확성에 어려움이 있습니다. 이 액티비티는 학습자가 실수에 대한 즉각적인 피드백을 제공함으로써 이러한 기능적 단어의 문제를 제거하는 데 도움이 됩니다. 또한 학생들이 보다 자연스럽고 다양하며 복잡한 문장 구조를 사용하는 데 도움이 됩니다.

팁 : 문장을 크게 말하세요. 자주 저지르는 실수 유형과, 이러한 유형의 오류에 집중하세요. (단수 / 복수, 주어-동사 일치, 관사 사용, 전치사, 동명사 및 부정사, 명사절, 형용사절, 어순 및 단어 형태)


Esta atividade foi desenvolvida para melhorar a precisão e a complexidade das frases. A maioria dos alunos pode produzir as palavras-chave do conteúdo em uma frase. No entanto, eles têm dificuldade com precisão porque as palavras funcionais são difíceis ou podem parecer sem importância. Esta atividade ajudará os alunos a eliminar problemas com essas palavras funcionais, dando-lhes feedback imediato sobre os erros que estão cometendo. Também ajudará os alunos a desenvolver o uso de estruturas de sentenças mais naturais, variadas e complexas.

DICA: Diga a frase em voz alta. Observe os tipos de erro que você comete com frequência. Concentre-se nesses tipos de erros. (singular/plural, concordância sujeito-verbo, uso de artigos, preposições, gerúndios e infinitivos, cláusulas substantivas, cláusulas adjetivas, ordem das palavras e formas das palavras.)

Directions: Write sentences about the video clip using the words given. You can change the word form or add words, but you cannot change the word order.

Instrucciones: Escriba oraciones sobre el videoclip usando las palabras dadas. Puede cambiar la forma de la palabra o agregar palabras, pero no puede cambiar el orden de las palabras.

Instrucciones: Escreva orações sobre o videoclipe usando as palavras-chave. Você pode alterar a forma da palavra ou adicionar palavras, mas não pode alterar a ordem das palavras.

지시 : 주어진 단어를 사용하여 비디오 클립에 대한 문장을 씁니다. 어형을 변경하거나 단어를 추가할 수 있지만 어순은 변경할 수 없습니다.

Sentence 1

there / many / possible / theory / origin / language

There are many possible theories for the origin of language(s).

Sentence 2

one / theory / language / start / people / sing

One theory is (that) language started [with/from] people singing.

Sentence 3

other / theory / language / allow / mother / keep / children / calm / while / forage

Another theory is (that) language allowed mothers to keep their children calm while (they were) foraging.

Sentence 4

unlike / other / primate / human / mother / have / down / children / while / forage / because / they / not / have / hair / baby / hold

Unlike other primates, human mothers had to put down their children while (they were) foraging because they didn't have hair for their babies to hold (on to).
Unlike other primates, human mothers had to put down their children while (they were) foraging because they didn't have hair (that) their babies could hold (on to).

Sentence 5

language / likely / start / so / group / human / can / work / together / scavenge / large / dead / animal

Language likely started so (that) groups of humans could work together to scavenge large dead animals.

Sentence 6

host / wonder / why / everyone / not / speak / same / language

The host wonders why everyone doesn't speak the same language.

Sentence 7

language / inherent / changeable / because / brain / hear / thing / different / time

Language is inherently changeable because brains hear things differently over time.

Sentence 8

speak / language / exist / much / long / than / write / language

Spoken language has existed (for) much longer than written language (has (existed)).

Sentence 9

if / writing / invent / earlier / there / less / linguist / diversity

If writing had been invented earlier, there would be less linguistic diversity.

Sentence 10

of / 7000 / language / current / exist / about / half / them / danger / disappear

Of the 7000 languages that currently exist, about half of them are in danger of disappearing.

Sentence 11

20 / large / language / eliminate / many / small / language

The 20 largest languages are eliminating many (of the) small(er) languages.

Sentence 12

English / historically / agent / imperial / and / now / drive / power / America

English was historically an agent of imperialism(,) and (it) is now driven by the power of America.

Sentence 13

English / eliminate / many / small / language / and / culture / associate / those / language

English is eliminating many (of the) small(er) languages and the cultures ([which/that] are) associated with those languages.

triangle Discussion 논의 Questões de discussão Discusión

  1. The man offers three possible explanations for the origin of language. What are they? Which one is the coolest (most interesting)? Which one does the man believe? Which one do you believe?
  2. Can you suggest any other explanation for the origin of language?
  3. Can you think of some ways that your language has changed in your life time?
  4. Can you think of some ways that English has changed in your life time?
  5. Are there any "small" languages that you know or are aware of that are in danger of disappearing? Do you think they should be preserved? How?
  6. Do you think that one day there will be just one language in the world? Would the world be a better place?
  7. Look at the image below? What does it show? Is there anything you find surprising?
    1. What is PIE (Proto-Indo-European)?
    2. What are the Romance languages? The Germanic languages? The Slavic languages?
    3. Which Nordic language (Danish, Finnish, Norweigen, Swedish) is very different from the other?
    4. Which Indian language probably has the most speakers?

    [ See Original Source ]

triangle Script 대본 Roteiro Texto

There are many many theories as to why people started using language, and some of them are ones where you want it to be true because it’s cool. There’s one theory that it started with people singing and that that became language.

There’s another theory that it started — and this is interesting — the idea is that humans are the only primates who aren’t hairy enough for infants to hold on all the time because there isn’t enough hair. So you have to put the infant down while you’re foraging. And so there’s a theory that speech began because human women could coo at their child and keep the child calm, as opposed to, if you’re a chimpanzee where the child can always be up against you.

But I think it probably started with humans needing to group together to scavenge animals dead at a distance that were too big for one human, or even one little group of humans to deal with.

Regardless of why language started and developed as it is, I would think that there would have been a large incentive for everyone to speak the same language. Whether it’s utilitarian, or gossip, or singing, or cooing to one’s family, it would just seem like there’s a lot less transaction cost if we’re all speaking the same language. How did it come to be and why did it come to be that so many languages bloomed?

Language is inherently changeable not because change is swell but because as you use a language over time and you pass it on to new generations, brains tend to start hearing things slightly differently than they were produced. After a while you start producing them that way. Next thing you know, you have a new sound. So it's Telephone before there is such thing as a Telephone.

It is exactly that. That is as inherent to language as it is inherent for clouds to change their shape. It isn’t that that happens to some languages and not others. That’s how human speech goes.

Is a lot of the linguistic diversity or the linguistic splintering that we’re talking about largely a function of the fact that spoken came so much before written? If there had been written that we wouldn’t have splintered?

If writing had come along immediately, quite certainly there would have been less change from place to place. But instead, because until really about 10 minutes ago language was just spoken, it was allowed to change at the speed that it normally does.

That change can happen in any one of various directions, which means that once you have two human groups, then their language after a certain period of time is not going to be the language that the original group spoke, just because say the sound “ah” might become “eh.” It might become, “uh.” You can see how a language would become a new one over time. Next thing you know, you have thousands of languages instead of one just because languages change like cloud formations.

Given our pretty advanced development of language and communication, what are the big problems with language as it now exists?

Well, we have 7,000 languages, and it’s safe to say that about half of them are severely endangered. Another thing that many people would consider a bad thing is that certain, roughly 20, big, fat languages are eating up so many of these small ones. What makes this regrettable to many, and quite understandably, is that the one that’s having probably the most success is English. English is this one language that was the vehicle of a rapaciously imperial power and now America is the main driver. That language is eating up all of these other languages, and in some ways, their cultures.