WORLD ENGLISH LANGUAGE DAY: ALL ABOUT ENGLISH
On April 23 every year, the United Nations celebrates English Language Day. Fun fact about this day: It is both the birth date and death date of one of English Literature’s most prominent personalities, William Shakespeare. The aim of celebrating English Language day is to promote multiculturalism and increase awareness about the language and its rich history. That’s what we’ll be doing in our blog, too. Read on to find out some interesting facts about English and a brief story of how this language came to be.
English: A Multicultural History
English is one of the few languages that are known as a global lingua franca: a language that is adopted by speakers who have different native languages. This language originated in England and is very closely related to Frisian (three languages that originated in the Netherlands and Germany), German, and Dutch. The origins of this language are believed to have been in existence since almost 5,000 years. It all began when three Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, came to England and took over the country. The original Celtic speakers of the country scattered right and left, and the Angles ‘Englisc’ soon came to be known as English. These tribes, however, did not speak the language we do today. They spoke Old English, from which the present-day form of the language emerged. English has been translated, and modified, and passed through history, borrowing words from languages like Sanskrit, German, Latin, and Greek, and a host of other languages besides, to become the language it is today.
Where is it Spoken?
English is the world’s most used language in telecommunication, news, publishing, international business, and diplomatic relations. Statista.com estimates that as of 2022, there are approximately 1.5 billion native or second-language speakers of English, more than any other language. English is the main language spoken in the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. Countries like India, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Africa, among many others, also use English as the official language. It is no surprise, therefore, that it is the world’s most recognized language.
Quirky Characteristics of English
English is known for its flexibility of vocabulary, which means that many words function simultaneously as a noun and a verb (and even as adjectives and adverbs in some cases). The word ‘beauty,’ for example, is not only a noun, but also an adjective, a verb, and an adverb as well! The English language also contains many word plays, with words that can be read the same way forwards and backward (palindromes like ‘madam’), sentences that use all the words in the alphabet (pangrams- we all know the sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’), and words that are a blend of two or more words (portmanteaus like ‘brunch’).
SOME QUICK FACTS ABOUT ENGLISH:
- The most commonly used letter in English is ‘e’.
- ‘I am’ is the shortest complete sentence in English.
- The word ‘alphabet’ is derived from two Greek words, alpha and bēta.
- When a comma is placed before the word ‘and’ and at the end of a list, it is known as the Oxford Comma.
- Every year, almost 4000 new words are added to the dictionary.
The most unique characteristic of the English language, however, is its ability to adapt to change. New words from other languages are adopted as they are or adapted, with minor changes, to add to the already vast dictionary of English.
How Many Words Does English Have?
Based on the number of dictionary entries, English places top of the list of languages in terms of word count. There are an estimated 171,146 words currently used in English. That’s an impressive number, especially considering that around 47,156 words that belong to English are obsolete. (Some experts, however, state that this number may be off by about a quarter of a million). Native speakers, on average, know about 15,000 to 20,000 words and ‘word families.’ Another quick fact: a ‘word family’ refers to the whole family tree of a word, including its ‘parents’ — its roots — and all its ‘relatives’ — the inflections of a word, its parts of speech, and its usages.
Well, that was an interesting peek into the facts behind the language we all speak, wasn’t it? We hope you’ve learned something new this English Language Day. At THE BIG CD, we work closely with this language, curating relevant, precise vocabulary flashcards for English-language proficiency exams, so we love learning about all things English.
United Nations: English Language Day, 23 April
Britannica: English Language
English Club: History of English
English Club: Interesting Facts about English
Grammarly: 10 Interesting Facts About the English Language that You Didn’t Know
Statista: The most spoken languages worldwide in 2022
BBC: How many words do you need to speak a language?