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English at the UN

The English Language Programme

The English Language Programme (ELP) at the United Nations is offered to promote linguistic balance within the Secretariat by improving the English language skills of its staff and the staff of missions to the United Nations.

The instructors of the English Language Programme are native speakers. They are all university trained and have at least a Masters degree in linguistics or language education and a minimum of five years experience teaching adults.

The ELP at Headquarters offers regular core English courses (levels one through eight), which are designed to improve general English language proficiency, as well as communication courses and special courses to meet both the work-related needs and cultural interests of members of the United Nations community. 

To foster a greater sense of community among participants and promote knowledge of the local culture, outside activities such as attending plays, participating in a Book Club, and a Literary Walking Tour of downtown Manhattan are available at participants’ request.

The ELP is a place to develop language skills, develop knowledge of the local culture, make friends, and also experience being part of the great diversity of the United Nations community.

Command of English - a necessity for UN delegates

Jean Gazarian
About Jean Gazarian

"For informal meetings, what happens very often is that delegates are left on their own. They have to fight to be understood. And to be understood, especially in New York, an English speaking environment, they tend to find some kind of common denominator. I didn’t want to say lowest – but it is the lowest common denominator – the lingua franca of informal negotiations. So officially you need the six languages. And it is certainly very important I think because by using six languages you can add some nuances from one or another of the languages and the flavour of multilingualism remains. But in practice negotiation has to be understood without interpretation. And very often that creates an awkward situation for non-English speaking delegations. Of course, English-speaking delegations have an advantage – it’s their own language. But the other delegations realize that unless they adjust to this situation they won’t be heard. And sometimes they are not heard because they cannot express themselves in English. "