The original Germanic peoples inhabited a region from present-day southern Scandinavia and the Netherlands to Poland. These warring tribes gradually spread southward through Germany, Austria, and parts of Switzerland during the early years of the Roman Empire, wrecking havoc. Some of these Germanic tribes also forcibly moved into the British Isles, Iceland, and the Faeroe Islands north of Scotland.
Isolated words and names recorded by Latin authors beginning in the 1st century BC display mark the evolution of the large group of Germanic languages. The Gothic Bible, translated by Bishop Ulfilas in about AD 350 is the earliest extensive Germanic text.
The Germanic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are divided into East Germanic (Gothic, now extinct), West Germanic (Afrikaans, Dutch, English, Flemish, Frisian, Low German, High German, and Yiddish), and North Germanic (Danish, Farosese, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish). Of these, English has the largest number of speakers, considerably more than 300 million.