The English-Speaking Union

About Us

Mission & History

English in Action flag


The English-Speaking Union employs English as a catalyst to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members.


In a shrinking world dominated by dollars and digits, cultural compression, unprecedented migration, and bloody national borders, the ESU believes in building a better world through the English language and international exchange. Under the banner English in Action, we work to inspire common bonds, person-to-person—one conversation, one presentation and one exchange at a time. By promoting creative and confident civil discourse, we enable participants to rise to their potential as individuals, thrive as global citizens, and join worldwide in pursuing conditions for peace. 


Founder of ESU, Evelyn Wrench

The English-Speaking Union of the United States was created to fulfill a mission. It was formally organized in the United States in 1920, two years after the establishment of its counterpart in Britain, the ESU of the British Commonwealth, and arose from the conviction of its founder, Sir Evelyn Wrench and a group of like-minded American and British friends, that maintenance of the close personal and national ties forged during World War I was necessary for the preservation of peace. Sir Evelyn firmly believed that given the opportunity to know one another personally, people who shared a common language would soon discover that they also shared similar values, whatever their differences in nationality or background. He imagined the ESU as an inclusive organization "founded in no narrow attitude of race pride, in no spirit of hostility to any people."

Over its century of achievement, the ESU has regularly recast itself in response to the changing context of American society and interests. Entering into its second century, English in Action is dedicated to increasing its national and international leadership in education and exchange through the following programs:

English 1-to-1 Conversations pair English language learners with trained volunteers to improve their English fluency through a one-on-one cultural exchange.

Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC) accelerates the integration of new immigrants into American society through English language courses, workshops and civic events.

Luard Morse Scholarships sends students from historically Black colleges to study for a semester at a British university of their choosing.

Middle School Debate builds research, critical thinking, and public speaking skills through debate tournaments.

National Shakespeare Competition develops high school students' analytical and communication skills through performing Shakespeare at the school, community and national levels.

Secondary School Exchange sends high school graduates to British boarding schools for a gap year abroad.

TLab provides teachers and lifelong learners educational enrichment programs at Oxford, the University of Edinburgh and Shakespeare's Globe.

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