April 23rd is known by many as St. George’s Day and the late William Shakespeare’s birthday. However, it is also a UN designated holiday: English Language Day!
English is one of the two working languages of the UN; the other is French. There are six language days in total, as part of a 2010 initiative by the Department of Global Communications, with individual days celebrating each of the Organization’s six official languages. The designated days are:
- Arabic (18 December)
- Chinese (20 April)
- English (23 April)
- French (20 March)
- Russian (6 June)
- Spanish (23 April)
The initiative aims to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization. Additionally, the goal of Language Days is to entertain and inform with the intention to increase awareness and respect for history, culture, and achievements surrounding each of the languages.
International days are oppourtunities to educate the public on issues of concern, mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. They have existed before the formal establishment of the United Nations, but have been a powerful advocacy tool for the organisation.