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The annual Shakespeare Competition for high school students is one of many programs the English-Speaking Union sponsors.

The E-SU started in the United Kingdom in 1918 and in the United States in 1920. It first served as an Anglo-American friendship organization. Since then, the E-SU in the US has grown into a chartered charity that focuses on the problems of education and communication among English speakers, says David Olyphant, executive director.

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"We do it at the grass-roots curriculum level," Mr. Olyphant says. E-SU branches in the US operate in 86 communities from coast to coast and in Hawaii. Programs focus on literacy and include matching E-SU volunteers with newcomers to the US to help them learn English; offering awards in literature and creative methods of teaching English; and supporting seven international exchanges and scholarships with its counterpart in London.

Most of the growth in the E-SU is on the international level, where 35 countries now have branches, Olyphant says.

More than 20,000 volunteer members make up the organization, which is based in New York City and is financed through membership contributions, endowments, and corporate and private foundations.

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