World English Language Day – 23 April

World English Language Day – 23 April

The United Nations English Language Day is observed on 23rd April every year, as it is the date of both the birthday and death of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer ever known in the English language.

The English language has developed over a period of almost 1,500 years ago, English was spoken by three tribes in the British Isles, yet, today, it is spoken by nearly two billion people. The expansion of the British Empire, particularly during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, helped English to become the world’s first truly global language. Most notably, the language was adopted in North America, Australia, and India, while several other former British colonies have opted to continue using the language.

During the 20th century, the popularity and global influence of the English language were helped by the emergence of the United States as one of the world’s superpowers in the aftermath of World War II, as well as though English language film, television, and radio broadcasts from the likes of the Hollywood and the BBC.

Today, English is spoken as a first language by an estimated 400 million people worldwide, with an additional 1 billion people speaking it as a second language. It is an official language in around 60 countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as an official language of the United Nations and the European Union.

World English Language Day is an initiative launched by the United Nations as a way of celebrating the 6 languages they recognize as the official languages used by the organization. The purpose of the UN’s language days is to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization.

The 6 languages and their celebration dates are:

  • Arabic (18 December) – Day of the Arabic language, which commemorates the approval in 1973 of Arabic as the official and working language of the General Assembly and its Main Committees.

  • French (20 March) – Day of the French language, coinciding with the International Day of La Francophonie.

  • Chinese (20 April) – Day of the Chinese language, dedicated to Tsan Chieh, creator of the Chinese script.

  • English (23 April) – Day of the English language, which coincides with the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, arguably the most famous dramatist and poet in the world of English literature.

  • Spanish (23 April) – Day of the Spanish language which shares the date of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the mind behind the Spanish letters.

  • Russian (6 June) – Day of the Russian language, on the anniversary of the birth of Alexander Pushkin known as the founder of modern Russian literature.

Language Days at the UN aim to entertain as well as inform, with the goal of increasing awareness and respect for the history, culture, and achievements of each of the six working languages among the UN community.

Interesting Facts about the English Language

We can trace the roots of English back to various dialects of the Anglo-Saxon languages around 1500 years ago, but another chance to add to the mix came in 1066 when William I became king. Hailing from what is now called France, it meant that Norman-French was used as the language of the courts and official activity. It made it much more difficult to understand each other initially as the upper classes spoke French, while the lower classes continued to use English.

  • “I” is one of the shortest and oldest words in the English language.

  • 11% of English consists only of the letter “E”. In fact, the letter “e”2 occurs at a rate of over one in 10 letters.

  • We’ve spoken before about how English is constantly evolving – in fact, some words have even completely changed their meaning over the course of time – but did you know that a new word is added to the English dictionary roughly every 2 hours?!

  • There are some words that don’t have a singular form. Just think, glasses (as in spectacles) can’t become… glass! And neither can scissor.

  • There are more people around the globe who’ve learned English as a second language than there are native English speakers.

  • The # sign isn’t always called a hashtag. Depending on where you are in the world it can be called a number sign or a pound sign.

  • The toughest tongue twister in the English language is said to be “sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”. How do you get on when you give it a try?!

  • There are certain words that look the same even if they’re spelled upside down! Swims, suns, and dollop are examples of these.

  • The opposite of sparkle is… darkle!

English is the language of international commerce and trade – those that have English, have a skill that differentiates them in the eyes of a potential employer. In today’s interconnected world, being able to speak a global language such as English is extremely valuable for an individual.

As a global language, English helps to build better understanding and trust between cultures; bridging the language gap, allowing people to express ideas, share experiences and connect with each other.

Suggested Read: World Book and Copyright Day

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.