On the 23rd April, the UN celebrated English Language Day. This day was part of an initiative that was established by the Department of Public Information at the UN in 2010, where each of the organisation’s six official languages were assigned their own language day.
The motivation behind establishing these days was to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well to encourage the equal use of all six languages.
On English Language Day, events that take place normally include book-readings, English quizzes, poetry and literature exchanges, and other activities that promote the English language.
Here are the dates for each of the six language days:
- Arabic (18 December)
- Chinese (20 April)
- English (23 April)
- French (20 March)
- Russian (6 June)
- Spanish (23 April)
One of the main reasons the 23rd April was chosen for English Language Day is that it is the traditional birthday of William Shakespeare. Regarded as one of the greatest ever English writers, his work is still hugely popular across the world. In recognition of this day and the anniversary of William Shakespeare, this week eSense Translations shares 8 interesting facts about the English poet, playwright and actor.
1) William Shakespeare was, allegedly, born (1564) and died (1616) on the same day, the 23rd April.
2) Shakespeare invented the idioms ‘Fair play’, ‘[it’s all] Greek to me’, ‘break the ice’, ‘wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve’, and ‘in a pickle’.
3) William Shakespeare has magnificently written and published 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and a few other verses.
4) Shakespeare married at just age 18 to Anne Hathaway, who was 8 years his senior, at age 26 at the time. When they married, she was three months pregnant. The couple had three children in total, Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith.
5) Some of Shakespeare’s best insults closely reassemble common ones used today. For example: ‘‘Villain, I have done thy mother’, ‘Thou art as fat as butter’ and ‘Her face is not worth sun burning.’
6) The Bard is buried at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Here, it was not unusual for bones to be dug up to make room for new graves. Shakespeare was not a fan of this idea, so had a curse put on his grave slab!
7) Shakespeare’s work has made a lasting impression on writing, poetry and theatre across the world. Around 3,000 of his words have been introduced into the English language and his works are more frequently quoted in the Oxford English dictionary than any other author.
8) The spelling of Shakespeare’s name has caused much confusion. Is it Shakespeare or Shakspere, as many great authorities once thought? Finally, in 1937, nearly 300 years after his death, uniformity was achieved and it was decided that the Bard’s name should be spelt Shakespeare.
What events have you taken part in this week that have celebrated English Language Day? eSense Translations would love to hear your news. Also, share with us your favourite Shakespeare play or quote from his work.
By Lorna Paice