The International Organizations and their Official Languages. Do we need to add more?
April 17, 2012 § 7 Comments
We all know that there are many international organizations that deal with just about anything we can think of; some of them are regional and some are global. These are the official languages for some of the most influential and widespread international organizations:
Languages of the United Nations (UN)
The original official languages of the UN were English, Chinese, French, and Russian, the languages of the permanent members of the Security Council. The choice was largely political.
- English was widely used as an international language, as it was the dominant language of the United States, a superpower.
- Chinese was the language of a major power as well as the language with the greatest number of speakers.
- Russian was the language of one of the major powers even though it was not particularly widely spoken outside of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
- French was chosen because it was still widely considered the international language of diplomacy.
- Spanish and Arabic were added in 1973, because they were the official languages of many nations.
- English, French and Spanish are the working languages of the UN General Assembly.
- English and French are the working languages of the UN Security Council.
Some think that the UN spends too much money and effort on translation and interpretation and that it should adopt one official language. Others think that there should be more official languages. For instance, there is pressure to add Hindi.
Languages of the European Union (EU)
The EU has 23 official languages and three official alphabets (Latin, Greek and Cyrillic) for its 27 member states. There are three working languages in the European Commission: English, French and German. The 23 languages create 253 potential two-language combinations. As a result, the European Parliament employs over 4,000 translators and interpreters.
Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish,
Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Do you think it necessary to have as many languages as the EU, or should international organizations go the UN way and have a few official languages. I would like to hear your opinion as interpreters and translators.