1 History 2 Statistics 3 Political alternatives 4 In specific countries/territories
4.1 Afghanistan 4.2 Bangladesh 4.3 Bulgaria 4.4 Belarus 4.5 Canada 4.6 Finland 4.7 Germany 4.8 Hong Kong 4.9 India 4.10 Israel 4.11 Latvia 4.12 New Zealand 4.13 Norway 4.14 Pakistan 4.15 Russia 4.16 South Africa 4.17 Switzerland 4.18 Taiwan 4.19 Ukraine 4.20 United Kingdom 4.21 United States 4.22 Yugoslavia
5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links
Around 500 BC, when
Darius the Great
Darius the Great annexed Mesopotamia to the Persian Empire, he chose a form of the Aramaic language
Aramaic language (the so-called Official Aramaic
Official Aramaic or Imperial Aramaic) as the vehicle for written communication between the different regions of the vast empire with its different peoples and languages. Aramaic script was widely employed from Egypt in the southwest to Bactria
Bactria and Sogdiana
Sogdiana in the northeast. Texts were dictated in the native dialects and written down in Aramaic, and then read out again in the native language at the places they were received. The First Emperor of Qin
First Emperor of Qin standardized the written language of China after unifying the country in 221 BC. Classical Chinese would remain the standard written language for the next 2000 years. Standardization of the spoken language received less political attention, and Mandarin developed on an ad hoc basis from the dialects of the various imperial capitals until being officially standardized in the early twentieth century.
According to an undated chart by the American pro-English-only
organization known as U.S. English, 178 countries have an official
language at the national level. Among those, English is the most
common with 67 nations giving it official status. French is second
with 29 countries,
Arabic is third with 26 countries and Spanish is fourth with 19 countries, Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries and German is official in 6. Some countries—like Australia, United Kingdom
United Kingdom and the United States—have no official language recognized as such at national level. On the other extreme, Bolivia
Bolivia officially recognizes 37 languages, the most by any country in the world. Second to Bolivia
Bolivia is India
India with 23 official languages. South Africa
South Africa is the country with the most official languages, all at equal status to one another, in the world as Bolivia
Bolivia gives primacy to Spanish and India
India gives primacy to Hindi.
See also: List of multilingual countries and regions
The selection of an official language (or no official language) is
often contentious. An alternative to having a single
official language is "official multilingualism", where a government
recognizes multiple official languages. Under this system, all
government services are available in all official languages. Each
citizen may choose their preferred language when conducting business.
Most countries are multilingual and many are officially
multilingual. Taiwan, Canada, Philippines, Belgium, Switzerland, and
European Union are examples of official multilingualism. This has been described as controversial and, in some other areas where it has been proposed, the idea has been rejected. It has also been described as necessary for the recognition of different groups or as an advantage for the country in presenting itself to outsiders.
In specific countries/territories Afghanistan Main article: Languages of Afghanistan In accordance with Chapter 1, Article 16 of the Constitution of Afghanistan, the Afghan government gives equal status to Pashto and Dari as official languages.
After the independence of
Bangladesh in 1971, the then Head of the State Sheikh Mujibur Rahman adopted the policy of ‘one state one language’ The de facto national language, Bengali, is the sole official language of Bangladesh
Bangladesh according to the third article of the Constitution of Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh
Bangladesh introduced the Bengali Language
Language Implementation Act, 1987 to ensure the mandatory use of Bengali in all government affairs.
Bulgaria Bulgarian is the sole official language in Bulgaria.
Belarus Main article: Belarusian since 1991 Belarusian and Russian have official status in the Republic of Belarus.
Main article: Official bilingualism in Canada
In accordance with the Constitution Act, 1982 the (federal) Government
Canada gives equal status to English and French as official languages. The Province of New Brunswick
New Brunswick is also officially bilingual, as is the Yukon. Nunavut
Nunavut has four official languages. The Northwest Territories has eleven official languages. All provinces, however, offer some necessary services in both English and French. Canadian advocates[which?] of a single official language say it promotes national identity. In Canada, debate has focused on whether the local majority language should be made the exclusive language of public business. In the Canadian province of Quebec, for example, laws restrict the use of the minority English in education, on signs, and in the workplace.
Finland According to the Finnish constitution, Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of the republic. Citizens have the right to communicate in either language with government agencies.
Main article: Languages of Germany
German is the official language of Germany. However, its minority
languages include Sorbian (
Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian), Romani, Danish and North Frisian, which are officially recognised. Migrant languages like Turkish, Russian and Spanish are widespread, but are not officially recognised languages.
Main article: Languages of Hong Kong
According to the
Basic Law of Hong Kong and the Official Languages
Ordinance, both Chinese and English are the official languages of Hong
Kong with equal status. The variety of Chinese is not stipulated,
however Cantonese, being the language most commonly used by the
Hongkongers forms the de facto standard. Similarly
Traditional Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese characters are most commonly used in Hong Kong
Hong Kong and form the de facto standard for written Chinese, however there is an increasing presence of Simplified Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese characters particularly in areas related to tourism. In government use, documents written using Traditional Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese characters are authoritative over ones written with Simplified Chinese characters.
Further information: Languages of
India and Languages with official status in India The Constitution of India
India (part 17) designates the official language of the Government of India
India as English as well as Standard Hindi written in the Devanagari script.[need quotation to verify] The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 languages, which have been referred to as scheduled languages and given recognition, status and official encouragement. In addition, the Government of India
India has awarded the distinction of classical language to Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam
Malayalam and Odia.
Main article: Languages of Israel
On 19 July 2018, the
Knesset passed a basic law under the title Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which defines Hebrew
Hebrew as "the State's language" and Arabic
Arabic as a language with "a special status in the State" (article 4). The law further says that it should not be interpreted as compromising the status of the Arabic
Arabic language in practice prior to the enactment of the basic law, namely, it preserves the status quo and changes the status of Hebrew
Hebrew and Arabic
Arabic only nominally. Before the enactment of the aforementioned basic law, the status of official language in Israel was determined by the 82nd paragraph of the "Palestine Order in Council" issued on 14 August 1922, for the British Mandate of Palestine, as amended in 1939: All Ordinances, official notices and official forms of the Government and all official notices of local authorities and municipalities in areas to be prescribed by order of the High Commissioner, shall be published in English, Arabic, and Hebrew." This law, like most other laws of the British Mandate, was adopted in the State of Israel, subject to certain amendments published by the provisional legislative branch on 19 May 1948. The amendment states that:
"Any provision in the law requiring the use of the
English language is repealed." In most public schools, the main teaching language is Hebrew, English is taught as a second language, and most students learn a third language, usually Arabic
Arabic but not necessarily. Other public schools have Arabic
Arabic as their main teaching language, and they teach Hebrew
Hebrew as a second language and English as a third one. There are also bilingual schools which aim to teach in both Hebrew
Hebrew and Arabic
Arabic equally. Some languages other than Hebrew
Hebrew and Arabic, such as English, Russian, Amharic, Yiddish
Yiddish and Ladino enjoy a somewhat special status, but are not considered[by whom?] to be official languages. For instance, at least 5% of the broadcasting time of privately owned TV-channels must be translated into Russian (a similar privilege is granted to Arabic), warnings must be translated to several languages, signs are mostly trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic
Arabic and English), and the government supports Yiddish
Yiddish and Ladino culture (alongside Hebrew culture and Arabic
Constitution of Latvia
Constitution of Latvia (or Satversme) designated Latvian as the state language. In 2012 there was initiative to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments, elevating Russian as a state language. Kristīne Jarinovska in her analysis describes the proposal in the following way:
It proposed several constitutional amendments for introducing Russian
as Latvia's second official language—i.e., amendments to the
Satversme’s Articles 4 (on Latvian as the state language), 18 (on
the solemn promise of a member of Parliament to strengthen the Latvian
language), 21 (on Latvian as the working language of the Parliament),
101 (on Latvian as the working language of local governments), and 104
(on the right to receive a reply to a petition in Latvian). Obviously,
the proposed amendments would have influenced other constitutional
norms as well. Moreover, since Article 4 of the Satversme alike norms
of independence, democracy, sovereignty, territorial wholeness, and
basic principles of elections that form the core of the Satversme
(according to Article 77 of the Satversme), the initiative, in fact,
proposed discontinuing an existing state and establishing a new one
that is no longer a nation-state wherein Latvians exercise their
rights to self-determination, enjoying and maintaining their cultural
New Zealand has three official languages. English is the de facto and principal official language, accepted in all situations. The Māori language and New Zealand
New Zealand Sign Language
Language both have limited de jure official status under the Māori Language
Language Act 1987 and New Zealand Sign Language
Language Act 2006
Languages of Norway
Languages of Norway and Norwegian language conflict Pakistan Main article: Languages of Pakistan Urdu
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. Urdu
Urdu and English both are official languages in Pakistan. Pakistan has more than 60 other languages.
Main article: Languages of Russia
Russian is the official language of the
Russian Federation and in all federal subjects, however many minority languages have official status in the areas where they are indigenous. One type of federal subject in Russia, republics, are allowed to adopt additional official languages alongside Russian in their own constitutions. Republics are often based around particular native ethnic groups, and are often areas where ethnic Russians and native Russian-language speakers are a minority.
Main article: Languages of South Africa
South Africa has eleven official languages that are mostly indigenous. Due to limited funding, however, the government rarely produces documents in most of the languages. Accusations of mismanagement and corruption have been leveled against the Pan South African Language
Language Board, which is in charge of maintaining the system.
Main article: Languages of Switzerland
The four national languages of
Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansh. At the federal level German, French and Italian are official languages, the official languages of individual cantons depend on the languages spoken in them.
Standard Chinese is the most common language used in government. Under the National languages development act, political participation can be conducted in any national language, which is defined as a "natural language used by an original people group of Taiwan", which also includes Formosan languages, Hakka and Taiwanese Hokkien.
Ukraine The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (December 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) In 2012 debate over adopting Russian as a regional language in Ukraine caused "an all-out brawl in Parliament", protests, and the resignation of a lawmaker in attempt to block the bill.
See also: Languages of the United Kingdom
The de facto official language of the
United Kingdom is English. In Wales, the Welsh language, spoken by approximately 20% of the population, has limited de jure official status.
See also: Languages of the United States
English is the de facto national language of the United States. While
there is no official language at the federal level, 32 of the 50 U.S.
states and all six inhabited U.S. territories have
designated English as one, or the only, official language, while
courts have found that residents in the 50 states do not have a right
to government services in their preferred language. Public
debate in the last few decades has focused on whether Spanish should
be recognized by the government, or whether all business should be
done in English.
California allows people to take their driving test in the following 32 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese. New York state provides voter-registration forms in the following five languages: Bengali, Chinese, English, Korean and Spanish. The same languages are also on ballot papers in certain parts of the state (namely, New York City). 
See also: English-only movement
The pro-English-only website U.S. English sees a multilingual
government as one in which its "services actually encourage the growth
of linguistic enclaves...[and] contributes to racial and ethnic
conflicts". Opponents of an official language policy in
United States argue that it would hamper "the government's ability to reach out, communicate, and warn people in the event of a natural or man-made disaster such as a hurricane, pandemic, or...another terrorist attack". Professor of politics Alan Patten argues that disengagement (officially ignoring the issue) works well in religious issues but that it is not possible with language issues because it must offer public services in some language. Even if it makes a conscious effort not to establish an official language, a de facto official language, or the "national language", will nevertheless emerge. Indeed, two-thirds of Americans believe that English is the United States' official language.
Sometimes an official language definition can be motivated more by
national identity than by linguistic concerns. When Yugoslavia
dissolved in 1991, the country had four official
languages—Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Albanian and Macedonian.
Serbo-Croatian was used as a lingua franca for mutual understanding and was also the language of the military. When Croatia
Croatia declared independence (1991) it defined its official language as Croatian, and Serbia
Serbia likewise defined[when?] its official language as Serbian. Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina defined three official languages: Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. From the linguistic point of view, the different names refer to national varieties of the same language, which is known under the appellation of Serbo-Croatian. It is said by some[by whom?] that the Bosnian government chose to define three languages to reinforce ethnic differences and keep the country divided. The language used in Montenegro, traditionally considered a dialect of Serbian, became standardized as the Montenegrin language
Montenegrin language upon Montenegro's declaration (2006) of independence.
List of official languages by state
List of official languages by institution
List of languages without official status
Language policy Medium of instruction Minority language National language Official script Working language References
^ "Official Language", Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, Ed. Tom McArthur, Oxford University Press, 1998.
^ Pueblo v. Tribunal Superior, 92 D.P.R. 596 (1965). Translation taken from the English text, 92 P.R.R. 580 (1965), p. 588-589. See also LOPEZ-BARALT NEGRON, "Pueblo v. Tribunal Superior: Español: Idioma del proceso judicial", 36 Revista Juridica de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. 396 (1967), and VIENTOS-GASTON, "Informe del Procurador General sobre el idioma", 36 Rev. Col. Ab. (P.R.) 843 (1975).
^ The Status of Languages in Puerto Rico. Luis Muñiz-Arguelles. University of Puerto Rico. 1986. Page 466. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
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^ Martin-Jones, Marilyn; Blackledge, Adrian; Creese, Angela (2012-01-01). The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism. Routledge. ISBN 9780415496476.
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^ Constitution of the Republic Bulgaria, article 3
^ Official Languages at the Heart of Our Identity: An overview of the Official Languages Act. Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Ottawa, Canada. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
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Further reading Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictograms (1990), ISBN 0-8048-1654-9 — lists official languages of the countries of the world, among other information. External links
Wikidata has the property: official language (P37) (see uses)
Languages by country in The World Factbook