How Far Back in Time Could You Travel and Still Understand English?

Time traveling back into the past is almost always a bad idea. Everybody is racist, everything is dirty, and you’ll probably get some terrible disease and/or get stabbed with a sword that everyone is carrying but you. The world is generally dumber and worse off. And on top of that! You might not even be able to understand the English they’re speaking.

Languages change over the years and what was English before sounds like a foreign language to English speakers now. Like, could you translate this English from The Canterbury Tales from 1389?

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;”


That’s just a little over 600 years and I’m lost. I mean, I recognize some words. Sort of. Not really, I just see familiar letters. Yestervid shows us how far back in time we could go where we can still understand English in the video below.

Basically, we’re definitely screwed on slang (batty fang means a beating, pigarlik is bald), totally screwed on pronunciation in certain eras (tea is pronounced tay), and absolutely have no chance at Old English (where this is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer: Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum).

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I wonder how far forward in time you could go and still understand the language?

1976 me would have no idea what 2016 me is talking about.