Official multilingualism is the policy adopted by some states of recognizing multiple languages as official and producing all official documents, and handling all correspondence and official dealings, including court procedure, in these languages. It is distinct from personal multilingualism, the capacity of a person to speak several languages.
States with policies of official bilingualism
Cameroon is extremely diverse linguistically and uses English and French as official languages.
In Canada English and French have special legal status over other languages in Canada’s courts, parliament and administration. At the provincial level, New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province and only Quebec is officially unilingual (French only). In practice, all provinces, including Quebec, offer some bilingual services and some education in both official languages up to the high school level. English and French are official languages in all three territories (because they are federally administered). In addition, Inuktitut is also an official language in Nunavut, and nine aboriginal languages have official status in the Northwest Territories.
Central African Republic
Island nation of Cyprus has had Greek and Turkish as its languages since the 1960 Constitution (Article 3, section 1). The usage of either language is complicated by the political dispute that lead to the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
In Finland, Finnish and Swedish are both considered "national languages". Municipalities of Finland are divided into three categories: unilingual Swedish, unilingual Finnish or bilingual. Finnish is the maternal language of about 90% of the population, and the bilingual or swedophone population is concentrated to the coastal areas of Ostrobothnia and Southwest Finland. The autonomous province of Åland is officially unilingual (Swedish). Both Swedish and Finnish are compulsory school subjects.
Hong Kong is officially bilingual. Both English and Cantonese are official languages.
The Philippine constitution designates Filipino as the national language and – along with English – as official languages. Spanish was the national and official language of the country for more than three centuries under Spanish colonial rule, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It remained, along with English, as a de facto official language until removed in 1973 by a constitutional change. After a few months it was re-designated an official language by presidential decree and remained official until 1987, when the present Constitution removed its official status. Spanish and Arabic are currently designated to be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.
Some people in native Tagalog areas are bilingual, while in non-Tagalog areas it is common to be multilingual in Filipino, English, and in one or more of the regional languages, or as in other cases in languages such as Spanish, Minnan (Hokkien), and Arabic due to factors such as ancestry and religion. Eleven regional languages are recognised by the government as auxiliary official languages in their respective regions, while 90+ other languages and dialects are spoken by various groups.
Other bilingual or multilingual countries
- Macau (Portuguese and Chinese/Cantonese)
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- Sri Lanka
- Equatorial Guinea
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- South Africa (11 official languages with equal status)
- "Afghanistan". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- "Country Profile: Afghanistan" (PDF). Library of Congress Country Studies on Afghanistan. August 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-04-08. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "Languages across Europe.". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
- "Official Languages Act - 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.)". Act current to July 11th, 2010. Department of Justice. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- Article XIV, Section 3 of the 1935 Philippine Constitution provided, "[...] Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages." The 1943 Philippine Constitution (in effect during occupation by Japanese forces, and later repudiated) did not specify official languages. Article XV, Section 3(3) of the 1973 Philippine constitution ratified on January 17, 1973 specified, "Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages. Presidential Decree No. 155 dated March 15, 1973 ordered, "[...] that the Spanish language shall continue to be recognized as an official language in the Philippines while important documents in government files are in the Spanish language and not translated into either English or Pilipino language." Article XIV Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution specified, "For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English."
- Article XIV, Sec 7: For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein. Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.
- Constitution of the Republic of Philippines Article 14, Sections 6, 7
- "Languages of South Africa". November 6, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2015.