International English Language day is celebrated on April 23 every year. This day is specifically dedicated to creating awareness about the language’s history, as well as boosting proficiency for speakers all around the world. Along with Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish, the United Nations has created this holiday to promote cultural diversity and multilingualism. A wide range of activities like book reading, film viewing, and quizzes are hosted by different organizations around the world to celebrate this day. Whether you’re a student or adult, this day is meant to educate people of all ages about the beauty, complexity, and universality of the language.
History of International English Language Day
The origin of the English language started when three Germanic tribes invaded Britain during the 5th century A.D. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes crossed the North Sea from what is known as modern Denmark and North Germany today. Upon their arrival, most people from Britain spoke the Celtic language. The invaders pushed them aside, forcing them to migrate to the west and north, which is now known as Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.
From 450 A.D. to 1100 A.D., the Germanic tribes developed the Old English language — the archaic version of the English that’s universally spoken today. The demise of Old English was seen in 1100 A.D. William the Conqueror— the Duke of Normandy — invaded England, which started the country’s linguistic division. Later on, the lower class spoke English and the upper class spoke French. This division evolved into a melting pot of language, then called Middle English — Old English added with French words — which eventually became Britain’s dominant language in the 14th century.
The rise of Modern English happened at the beginning of the 16th century when the language had a distinct shift in pronunciation. This shift is called the ‘Great Vowel Shift’ where vowels in the English language were pronounced shorter and shorter. Printing of texts and books started in this era, which standardized modern English as a staple in Britain. In 1604, the first English language dictionary was published.
The main difference between today’s English language and 16th-century Modern English is the vocabulary. Two factors contributed to this: the Industrial Revolution and the Global British Empire. The Industrial Revolution called for the need to use more words. On the other hand, this was also the height of the British Empire’s colony which covered a quarter of the world’s territories, forcing them to inevitably adopt foreign words in their vocabulary.
International English Language Day timeline
The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade Britain, introducing the English language.
Germanic tribes develop Old English in Britain.
The division of lower class and higher class English births a middle ground language known as Middle English.
The pronunciation of the language changes and the emphasis on vowels becomes shorter.
More words are introduced to the English language as the result of the Industrial Revolution and the Global British Empire.
International English Language Day FAQs
How many versions of English are there?
There are 160 known English dialects from around the world.
What is the first novel in the English language?
The first novel in the English language is “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defore, published in 1719.
What is the oldest English poem?
The oldest surviving English poem is ‘Beowulf,’ which was first written between 975 A.D and 1100 A.D.
International English Language Day Activities
Host a book club with your friends
There isn’t a better way to spend International English Language Day than by grabbing your favorite novel and hosting a book club. It’s a great way to bond with friends while discussing your favorite books and sharing recommendations for future reading.
Take online English classes
If English isn’t your first language, then online language classes are for you. There is a variety of English classes you can take virtually specifically designed either for beginners or advanced learners.
While April 23 is International English Language Day, it is also Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Spend the day enjoying your favorite Shakespearean films, or simply read his world-renowned plays.
5 Interesting Facts About The English Language
English as the universal language
English is spoken by 952 million people around the world as their first language and 603 million people as their second language.
The longest word in the English language
The longest English word is ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,’ which is a medical term for referring to a lung disease caused by fine silica dust inhalation.
The shortest English sentence
‘I am,’ is the shortest complete sentence in English.
The shortest and oldest English word
According to historians and medieval records, ‘I’ is the shortest and oldest English word.
The origin of the English dictionary
English writer Samuel Johnson wrote the first English dictionary in 1755.
Why We Love International English Language Day
It promotes easier communication
International English Language Day highlights the benefits of learning English, which promotes easy communication. As the world’s universal language, it allows people to connect from different parts of the world, be it for business or leisure.
It has a rich history
While it is widely spoken, not many people know the rich history and evolution of the English language. This holiday gives people the opportunity to learn its origin and understand its nuances.
We love reading books
International English Language Day is the day for every bookworm in the world. It’s that time of the year when you can relax, grab a cup of coffee, and spend the day burying your nose in your favorite book.
International English Language Day dates