Each year on the 23rd of April we celebrate English Language Day, a date chosen in honour of William Shakespeare and his impact on modern-day English. It is one of the the UN’s language days, of which there are six throughout the year, with their purpose being to ‘celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity’.
There is a very long and rich history to the English Language, which continues to grow by approximately 14.7 words each day, and around 4,000 new words each year! Here are some more interesting facts about the English Language.
English emerged from a West Germanic language, and was brought here via the migration of Germanic tribes to Britain around the fifth century A.D. German is believed to be one of the easier languages for native English speakers to learn due to this relation between the two.
English is named after the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to the British isles in the post-Roman period. The Angles called their language “Englisc” and it is from this that the word “English” was derived.
English is the most spoken language in the world. According to Statista, there were around 1.5 billion people worldwide who spoke English either natively or as a second language in 2022. According to the UN, the World population has reached 8 billion on November 15, 2022. So, with these calculations, around almost one in five people speak English. However, some online sources cite the figure as one in four.
English became the language of Parliament and of legislation in the 15th century. Henry V was the first king since Anglo-Saxon times to use English in his written instructions.
Table Alphabeticall by Robert Cawdrey, put to paper in 1604, was the first single-language English dictionary ever published. It included approximately 3000 words, and each one is defined with a simple and brief description.
The nature of English language makes it quite difficult to grasp for non-English speakers, as it is a polyglot language that includes words that are Anglo-Saxon, French, Germanic, Greek and Latin. These multiple language sources mean there are a number of ways to say the same thing, instead of just one or two. This can cause non-native speakers lots of confusion when learning it.
To learn more about English Language Day, please visit the U.N.’s English Language Day website.