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English Language Day

English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (UN). In February 2010, the UN created six language days "to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization." The days were also created "to increase awareness and respect for the history, culture and achievements of each of the six working languages among the UN community." The creation of the days was part of the 2010 International Mother Language Day. Besides English, there are days that honor the Russian, Chinese, Arabic, French, and Spanish languages. Events are held at the UN Headquarters each year, and the day is celebrated at other UN locations—known as duty stations—around the world.

April 23 was chosen for the holiday's date because it is the observed birthday and death date of William Shakespeare, who is seen by many as the greatest writer of the English language. True to its name, the language originated in England. Similar in form to Frisian, Dutch, and German, it is a West Germanic language and is part of the Indo-European language family. English is known as a "world language" because it is so widely spoken; about 2 billion people—close to a third of the world's population—can speak it. It is the main language used in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and some island nations in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is an official language in some other countries, including South Africa, India, the Philippines, and Singapore.

How to Observe English Language Day

Events can be attended at the UN Headquarters in New York City on the day. Check the day's official website for more information on this year's events. You could also hold similar events in your own community, or see if any such events are taking place. Since the date of the holiday is related to Shakespeare, you could read some of his works. Some other reading ideas could be to pick up one of the 100 best novels written in English, or to read a book about the English language. If English is not your primary language, there are many things you can do to learn it or improve your fluency of it.

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