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23 April 2024
By The Education People

Celebrating English Language Day

Estimated read - five minutes.

Dive into the Vibrant World of Language: Celebrating English Language Day!

Imagine a world where words are the threads that weave the fabric of communication, where every language is a brushstroke painting the vast canvas of human expression. In 2010, the United Nation's Department of Global Communications decided to dedicate special days to honour each of their six official languages. And on 23 April, the spotlight shines brightly on the beauty and richness of the English language.

William Shakespeare

English Language Day, observed on 23 April, not only commemorates the intricate tapestry of words but also pays homage to the timeless legacy of William Shakespeare. Born in 1564 in the quaint town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's unparalleled contributions as a poet, playwright, and actor have left an indelible mark on the literary landscape. As the world celebrates his life and works on this auspicious day, it's a poignant reminder of the power and universality of the English language.    23 April is the chosen date as it's Shakespeare's birthdate and date of death.

English Language Day is more than just a tribute to Shakespeare; it's an invitation to explore the dynamic evolution of language in the digital age. This year's theme, Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities, underscores the transformative role of technology in shaping how we learn and interact with languages.

As we marvel at the diversity of human expression, it's fascinating to note that amidst the 7,139 officially recognised languages across 195 countries, English stands as a pillar of global communication. Alongside Chinese, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic, English occupies a prominent place as one of the five most spoken languages worldwide.

Yet, amidst this linguistic tapestry, there are threads that are fading away. Languages like Njerep, spoken by a small community in Nigeria, and Eyak, once alive in parts of Alaska, are now on the brink of extinction or extinct. The sobering reality is that nine languages cease to exist each year, underscoring the urgent need to preserve and celebrate linguistic diversity.

Sign Language

In this mosaic of languages, sign language emerges as a testament to the boundless creativity of human communication. With over 300 different sign languages worldwide, including 25 in Africa alone, sign language transcends borders and cultures. From ASL in Australia to BSL in the United Kingdom, sign languages bridge the gap between the spoken word and visual expression, embodying the universal desire to connect and communicate.

So, as we come together to celebrate English Language Day, let us not only revel in the beauty of words but also reaffirm our commitment to preserving and celebrating the rich tapestry of languages that define our world.

Meet Penny Bill, Specialist Subject Adviser (English)

Penny works for our Primary School Improvement Service as a Specialist Subject Adviser for English. She has worked as a Local Authority English adviser and specialist for over 11 years. Penny enjoys working with schools to assist them in achieving their great potential. Penny's specialities are the spoken language, reading and phonics, writing, grammar, punctuation and spelling.

What was it about English that inspired you?

In primary school education, the best thing about leading English, in my opinion, is that it’s about
stories – either telling them or reading them. Stories, whether fictional or real, describe what human life is all about. Most children love to hear stories, and then begin to tell them themselves – sometimes before they have even learned to read! It’s that link between real lives and stories or books which capture my interest the most.

Did you always know you loved English?

Not really. In fact, at secondary school I chose to study music, art, history and French for my A-levels. English was further down the list of my preferences. I think that has a lot to do with my favourite hobbies at the time (piano, ballet and languages), and also about who my favourite teachers were.
My personal reading journey really took off at age 11, when I read the whole series of Little House in the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a teenager, I was completely engrossed in Gone with the Wind, and now, in adult life, my favourite authors include Charlotte Bronte, Daphne Du Maurier and Maggie O’Farrell, to name a few. I also enjoy drama and spoken English, which began in primary school and never left me. I sang too, in Year 6, and then joined school choirs and operatic societies.
The English language is truly the richest in the world, in terms of its origins, breadth and richness of vocabulary. It’s a spectacular language to work with.

What is your favourite thing about English?

I’ve probably partly answered that question already, but I should also mention that in my 40s I began to write novels. I absolutely love writing stories and have now published seven books on Amazon. Writing is like painting but with sentences, and the way the words we choose are organised to make a sentence effectively paint a picture. It’s a pleasure to craft and compose, but it’s about much more than just choosing vocabulary, or making up a good story plot. The whole thing has to weave together, like an expert piece of carpentry or fabric. Plot, characters, setting; sentences and words; the journey.
It’s taken about 10 years to learn to write well. Nothing in this life is handed to you on a plate.
Like playing a musical instrument or being good at sport: you have to be prepared to put the time in.

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