Official UN languages. What languages ​​are official in the UN?


The United Nations has a large number of countries. However, business negotiations and correspondence of this organization is carried out only in a few specific languages. Such official UN languages, the list of which is relatively small, are not chosen by chance. They were the result of a careful and balanced approach.

Six languages

The official languages ​​of the United Nations are only a few world languages. Many factors influenced their choice, including prevalence. There are a total of six official UN languages. These include, of course, the Russian language. The choice is obvious in favor of English and Chinese - a huge number of people all over the planet speak these languages. In addition to these, the status of the official language received Arabic, Spanish and French. All of these languages ​​are state-owned in more than one hundred countries of the world, more than 2, 800 million people speak them.


Historical moments

The history of the UN official languages ​​began after the end of the Second World War. The UN Charter, concluded in the USA on June 6, 1945, was originally signed in five language versions. Among them, there was no Arabic language. This is evidenced by article 111 of this document, which also states that all copies, regardless of the drafting language, are authentic.

In 1946, the General Assembly approved the rules according to which it was required to treat all languages ​​equally, and that five languages ​​should be used in all bodies subordinate to the UN. At the same time, the listed UN official languages ​​were considered official, while English and French were considered working languages. A year later, the organization eliminated the requirement that the official UN languages, which at that time consisted of only five positions, were of the same status in other organizations.

In 1968, the status of a worker received the Russian language - one of the official languages ​​of the UN.

In 1973, Chinese was further recognized as a working language. Also added as the official Arabic language, it also became the working language of the General Assembly. In this way, all official languages ​​simultaneously became workers.

In 1983, all six official UN languages ​​became recognized by the Security Council. In this organization they also became official, and at the same time workers.

It is noteworthy that all UN secretaries-general had practical knowledge of English and French.


Use of languages

The official languages ​​of the United Nations are used at all sorts of meetings and gatherings of this organization of the greatest size. In particular, they are used during the General Assembly and the meeting of the heads of the Security Council participants. The languages ​​listed above are also used when holding the Economic and Social Council.

The meaning of this status is that any of the UN members have the right to speak any of these official languages. However, this does not in any way limit his right to use another language. If a representative of a country speaks in a non-official language, interpreters will be translated into official. In addition, the task of simultaneous interpreters is to translate from one official language to the other five.

UN documentation

Records management is also conducted in all six languages. Moreover, if a document is translated, for example, only into four languages, and not translated into the two remaining ones, then such a document will not be published without being interpreted in all official languages. The authoritativeness of the texts is the same - no matter what the language of his presentation.

Parity of languages

At one time, the UN leadership was criticized because of its tendency to use English, and, accordingly, for not paying enough attention to the other official languages. The UN member states, whose populations speak Spanish, in 2001 raised this question to Secretary General Kofi Annan. At the time, K. Annan explained this imbalance between the six languages ​​by the fact that the organization’s budget does not allow for proper consideration of all the subtleties and nuances of translation into each language. However, he took this note into account and said that the situation should be corrected, paying attention to the adequate use of each official language.


This controversial point was resolved in 2008–2009, when the General Assembly approved a resolution according to which the Secretariat was entrusted with the task of respecting parity between all official languages. Particular attention was required to pay translation of information subject to public dissemination.

On June 8, 2007, a resolution was passed by the United Nations concerning the management of the human resources working in it. At the same time, the document intentionally emphasized the high importance of equality of all 6 official languages ​​without exception.

On October 4, 2010, the Secretary General prepared a report on multilingualism, and after about six months, the General Assembly asked him to provide guarantees that all the official and working languages ​​of the UN would be equal and that the necessary conditions would be created for their normal functioning. At the same time, a body of the international community adopted a resolution in which it was noted that the development of the official UN site (on the part of multilingualism) is proceeding at a slower pace than previously envisaged.

UN Specialized Offices

It is known that the UN also has independent organizations or institutions that carry out their activities autonomously. These agencies include, for example, UNESCO, Universal Postal Union and others. It is noteworthy that other languages ​​can be considered official languages ​​in these independent UN bodies. So, in the Universal Postal Union only French is used, it is the only official one. UNESCO, by contrast, officially recognized nine languages, among them Portuguese and Italian, as well as Hindi. The International Fund for Agricultural Development has a total of four languages ​​used by its members at the official level. It is Arabic, Spanish, French and English.


Language Coordinator

As early as 1999, the General Assembly made an appeal to the Secretary-General by adopting a resolution requesting the creation and appointment of a senior official of the Secretariat. This official was charged with coordinating all issues related to multilingualism.

On December 6, 2000, Federico Riesco of Chile was appointed the first to this position. The next multilingual coordinator was Miles Stobi of Guyana, who was appointed to the post on September 6, 2001.

Shashi Terur was appointed coordinator in 2003 by Kofi Annan. In parallel, he was also involved as Deputy Secretary General in charge of communications and public information.

Currently, Kiyo Akasaka from Japan is in the position of coordinator for multilingualism. As well as Shashi Terur, he combines his work with the position of head of the public information department.


Language days

Since 2010, so-called language days have been celebrated at the UN, each of which is intended for one of the 6 UN official languages. Such an initiative was supported by the Public Information Department in order to highlight the linguistic diversity of the organization, as well as to gain knowledge and information about the importance of intercultural communication. Every day of a particular language is associated with any significant historical event that occurred in the country of that language.

  • Arabic - December 18 - the date of the definition of Arabic as the official language of the UN.
  • Russian - June 6 - the date of birth of A.S. Pushkin.
  • English - April 23 - the date of the birth of Shakespeare.
  • Spanish - October 12 - is considered in Spain as the "Columbus Day".
  • Chinese - April 20 - in honor of Tsang Jie.
  • French - March 20 - the day of the creation of the Internationale.


Parallel with the European Union

The European Union is another large multilingual organization consisting of several countries. Each of these countries, of course, has its own language. Therefore, in this alliance there is a main rule that all languages ​​of the participating countries are equal. All documentation and clerical work must be conducted in these languages, and appropriate translations must be made. However, with the growth of the Union and the inclusion of other states (northern Scandinavian and Eastern European), these new participants did not require the European Union to give their language official status, justifying it with knowledge of one of the main languages. English, German, Italian, French and Spanish are considered as such in the union. Indeed, this position of the new members of the organization is confirmed by the fact that almost all diplomats have good knowledge in at least one of the listed languages. Most new participants prefer to speak English. In addition, it should be noted that in the European Union the most ardent supporters of multilingualism are the French.

Use of official languages ​​in other international organizations

Other international organizations, for example, specializing in trade, in sports, as well as others are inclined to use English, but at the same time the frequent use of French is noted, in many communities it is official.

International organizations with a regional scale generally apply the language that is characteristic of their ethnic or religious composition. Thus, Arabic is used in Muslim organizations, and in the main part of non-Muslim Africa, either French or English are used as official languages ​​(the colonial past left a lot of influence).


The desire of other languages ​​to obtain official status in the UN

Recently, many other languages ​​want to become the official world languages ​​of the UN. Many countries are fighting for this right. So, among these countries can be identified Turkey, Portugal, India and others. In 2009, Bengali, which ranks seventh among the most spoken languages, was proposed as the new official language. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh stood up for this.

Despite the fact that a huge number of people speak Hindi, the wish of the Indian leadership to establish this language as an official one was not accepted. This was explained by the fact that Hindi is very uncommon in the world, and almost all the people who speak it are concentrated in the region of this state.

There was a proposal to choose Esperanto as the main official language, which would replace all existing languages, thereby reducing the organization’s budget expenditures, saving on translations.

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