Approximately 1.5 billion people speak English worldwide (as many as every 1 in 4 people, according to some estimates) and, in many places, it has become the lingua franca: the common language for communication between people who otherwise speak different mother tongues.
This is one of the reasons why the United Nations has chosen it as one of the six official languages, and, since 2010, it has been celebrated on its own special day: English Language Day is celebrated on 23 April, in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday. The purpose of this special annual event is to encourage language teaching and learning, raise awareness of the cultures and history that surround English, and reflect on the importance of the language today. Want to know how you can celebrate English Language Day? Keep on reading!
Why do we celebrate the English language?
With its seemingly illogical irregular verbs and curious plurals (how does mouse become mice?), English can be a challenge to learn at first, especially to those who speak a mother tongue that does not belong to the Germanic family of languages. But the benefits of being proficient in English certainly outweigh the difficulties; the language is a huge asset in global business, as well as a useful tool for communication and accessing some of the world’s best books, music, movies, and TV shows.
The UN chose April 23 to celebrate the English language because most people believe this is the date when Shakespeare was born, and also the anniversary of his death. Arguably the most famous playwright in the world, Shakespeare has had a massive influence on modern English. His creativity was endless and he coined hundreds of terms and phrases, many of which are still in use today, like “break the ice,” “love is blind,” and “fashionable.”
How to celebrate
In 2019, the UN featured book-reading events, quizzes, poetry, and literature exchanges. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 crisis, you can participate virtually in these events. Celebrate English Language Day by learning more about English-speaking peoples’ history, culture, and traditions!
Here are some ideas on how you can commemorate this date, regardless of your location.
Give your brain a break from memorizing vocabulary and structures and test how well you are doing with fun games and trivia! For example, the Can You Guess Where This English Accent Is From? game. Not only will the test put your ability to identify the Australian, Canadian, American, British, or New Zealand accents to the test, but also the pronunciation of non-native speakers!
Entertain yourself with TV shows and series! These are the perfect ways to get to know a culture if you don’t live in an English-speaking country. For example, you’ll learn about the food most often eaten, table manners, public holidays, social conventions, manners, and festivities, like Thanksgiving (did you know that Friends has 9 different episodes featuring this special date?).
Sharpen your language skills with online or face-to-face lessons! If you’re reading this article, you certainly know some English and have a good comprehension level. However, there are always new things to learn regardless of your proficiency level, like idioms, phrasal verbs, cultural references, and slang. Plus, you can always fine-tune your pronunciation a bit more, and what better way to achieve this than with the help of a professional, native-speaking instructor?
English Language Day aims to entertain and inform people about the history, culture, and achievements associated with the language. Celebrate English no matter where you are in the world and become even more proficient in a fun, interactive way through the many activities organized on April 23 to commemorate this special date!