Talk:Official language

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Number of States With Official Languages[edit]

I don't understand why someone keeps reverting to the "half of the world's nations have official languages" statement. This is blatantly incorrect. I have done extensive research on this. Only a small handful of countries do not have an official language.

I am considering that a country has an official language if one or more of the following criteria are met:

a) the country's constitution contains a statement about an "official language" b) any official government website of a country states an "official language(s)" c) an international organization to which the country voluntarily belongs states an "official language(s)" of that country d) a government embassy or consulate of a country states a country's "official language(s)"

Please note that if any of the above use "language" or "national language" or "officially recognized (minority) language", I do not consider this to be "offical".

I have a credible source (one of the above 4) to back up almost every country in the world. Until someone can generate a plausible reason for the "Half" count, please leave my changes in place.

Proposals for better definitions[edit]

I believe the requirement that an official language be defined in the constitution is rather too strict. What's the source for that?

I'm pretty sure Germany wouldn't have an official language according to that definition (since I don't tihnk it's mentioned in the Grundgesetz (which is usually accepted as the constitution)) and I have no idea what the situation would be like for Iraq or Afghanistan.

So, should we remove those two examples or find a better definition? 00:27, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

France doesn't have an "official" language, neither does Germany. (6-24-06)

I think a better definition would be more useful. Perhaps it can be defined has the language used in the educational o legal system as the legal medium of communication. There is also the problem that sometimes it is an informal definition of what a national language is (e.g. UK). Perhaps its historical link with the ideas the nationalism of the last half of 19th in Europe can be mentioned. Look at the Spanish entry, that tries to link the above ideas. Jorge GG 02:25, 29 Oct 2003 (UTC).

I too opt for a better definition, since the phrase is used in many cases where there is no constitutionally defined official language.

In particular, the sentence about New Zealand is inconsistent with the definition, the country not even having a written constitution. And any source that talks about official languages of New Zealand anyway (including the CIAWF) lists English alongside Maori. So I'm removing that part. (And perhaps it would be interesting to know what definition the CIA is using for the term?)

Also, why does it state that France has several native languages, but not that, e.g., Germany does as well? (Apart from variants of German otherwise on Wikipedia referred to as separate languages, like Low Saxon, there is notably Sorbian.) -- Jao 01:33, 12 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Germany does not have an official language according to its constitution -- I am removing it from the list. But I would agree that a less restrictive definition of official language would be more useful. How about: "a language which is by law required to be used for government business". By the way, the USA does have at least one federal law that requires the use of English: 8 USC 1423 -- Chl 06:46, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

You have my vote too. The current definition is too restrictive and (IMHO) if we examined it from a legal sense just plain wrong. Many nations legislate their native language I believe. I'm Australian and I'm sure I have seen Australian govt documents listing English as the official language.

The article needs to be rewritten IMHO. Robertbrockway 20:36, Nov 19 2004 (UTC)

Mirrors complicate searches[edit]

I was looking for a definition on the web and found this. The article bears a resemblance to the Wikipedia article. I wonder which one came first. Robertbrockway 20:41, Nov 19 2004 (UTC)

  • The bottom of the page states that article is from Wikipedia. (SEWilco 18:45, 18 December 2005 (UTC))

Ok, so when Wikipedia released dodgy information the rest of the world just copies it: Robertbrockway 20:44, Nov 19 2004 (UTC)

Yes - for better or worse, that's the nature of open content. Have a look at Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks: is highly compliant and moderately compliant with our GFDL licence. --rbrwr± 21:56, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Variations and subtlety[edit]

I agree that "...typically the language used in a nation's legislative bodies, though the law in many nations requires that government documents be produced in other languages as well." does not capture the ways in which official languages have been defined and promoted through the public education system, state media, laws regulating privately-owned media, as well as official languages of sub-national (e.g. official languages of Indian states) and supra-national entities (the EU), as well as quasi-supra-national organizations (the UN). A-giau 18:16, 10 Mar 2005 (UTC)


i deleted the bottom of the page simply because it was exactly the same thing that was already written at the top Zapacna 09:47, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

A few interwiki links got deleted in the process, as the page wasn't 100% duplicated; I've restored these now. sjorford (talk) 17:04, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

Info request[edit]

How many countries have only one official official language? I ask because, as I see it, the point of making a language official is to mandate its use in government agencies. If a country has only one official language (de facto) there does not really seem to be much need to have it declared official - as everything in gov't will already be available in that language. The impact of making a language official appears, it seems to me, when MORE than ONE language is official - and thus guaranteed to its citizens for dealing with the gov't. I wonder about movements to make a single de facto official language the official official language. Is there an expectation that other languages will NOT be allowed to be used in government documents anymore at all? ...that translations will no longer be provided? As far as the article goes, I think it would be good to have a list of:

  • countries with only one official official language?
  • countries with only one de facto official language?
  • countries with more than one official official language?

Can there even be * countries with more than one de facto official language? --JimWae 01:45, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

The Philippines[edit]

I don't think we can accurately say that the Philippines has just one official language. Nationally, there are two of them. The part about smaller governmental units using their own dialects is accurate, but the part about the national, official language is wrong, I'm pretty sure. I just thought I might post this up here instead of just going ahead and changing it, in case if anyone might disagree.J.J. Bustamante 12:23, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Irish: not yet an official language of the EU[edit]

The current statement is quite inaccurate. "Official treaty language" and "official language" is not identical as long as EU is concerned. "Official treaty language" means that only the Treaties are translated into Irish and nothing more. Please check Languages of the European Union#Irish for details and references.--Michkalas 12:43, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Fair point. Actually, I wonder if the sentence does add anything to the article (which is about official languages in general) as it stands - how about either removing it altogether or using it as an example in a discussion of the difference you refer to here? Mucky Duck 17:47, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I have tried a phrasing. We can change it if it is not good enough.--Michkalas 18:14, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Administrative Language[edit]

I confess that it's not always clear to me in certain areas whether a language is official or a working language, and it seems that sometimes the two are interchangable. However, I would question why typing "Administrative language" redirects to this "Official language" page. Surely administrative language should redirect to "working language"? Mrodowicz 16:35, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Interesting point. A Google search on "Administrative language" shows that in fact the phrase has both meanings, either the language used in the internal workings of a government (or organisation or company) or in the communication of a government with the public or both.
In general, the distinction between working and official language is not that clear. Many organisations use the one term or the other and mean the same thing.--Michkalas 17:27, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Language of the court[edit]

We should really have an article on court language, or whatever the more appropriate historical term may be for the language of the noble court. Such a concept considerably predates nationalistic ideas of official languages,--Pharos 04:20, 15 June 2007 (UTC)


Pakistan is an Arab state. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:15, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Um, no it isn't. See Languages of Pakistan.--Pharos 22:01, 21 September 2007 (UTC)


I tagged the article with Template:Refimprove because I am particularly concerned about the definition of “official language”. It is inappropriate for us as Wikipedia editors just to make up a definition and argue about which one is better; the definition needs to come from a reliable source. I would say that we should look in university-level textbooks surveying Comparative law to get a good definition of “official language”. Also let me point out that the reference in the current version of the article to should be deleted because it does not meet Wikipedia’s standards. --Mathew5000 (talk) 01:52, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


I'm not absolutely convinced about the following phrase: "lick my balls is often connected with wider political issues of sovereignty"

Something tells me all is not well in the mind of the contributor. Major Whipple (talk) 21:03, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Ah...I see someone is playing a very mature game. The article has now been amended. Major Whipple (talk) 21:05, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Use of the term "migrated"[edit]

Its function in the following sentence is confusing:

"Official language status is often migrated with wider political issues of sovereignty, cultural nationalism, and the rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, including immigrant communities."

I think the editor means to say "conjoined" or something along those lines. Hard to tell since it comes very close to describing the idea of appropriation.Trueno Peinado (talk) 04:32, 5 November 2010 (UTC)


What about a chart of countries and the official language. -- (talk) 00:40, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

Number of official languages[edit]

How many languages are official languages (including those on subnational level, but with some degree of recognition as official)? – Alensha talk 00:55, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

De facto languages[edit]

I think there should be a section regarding why in many countries there isn't an official language. (talk) 07:10, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Listing arguments[edit]

It is encyclopedic and non-POV to list the arguments (in brief) made by both sides of the debate. Of course sources making argument X are non-neutral, but the reporting of their argument is not itself POV as long as it is presented properly (clearly marked as an argument, balanced by argument from other side of debate). It would be POV to present said arguments as fact or to remove only one side of the argument. --ThaddeusB (talk) 02:07, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

I don't disagree with your statements but obviously we have a communication issue here, which is why we needed to discuss this first. The problem is that the advocates side is not presented properly, (2) it is also not supported by the previous citation. With that clarified, I have moved some stuff around to remove what could be perceived as poorly constructed and unencyclopedic. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 03:36, 27 August 2013 (UTC), and I approve this message.
I think your recent edits are a good solution to the dilemma. Nice work. --ThaddeusB (talk) 03:48, 27 August 2013 (UTC)


List of official languages by state lists Danish language as statewide official language of Denmark, consistent with Danish language. But the article Official language lists Denmark as one of fifteen countries without an official language.

Which one is correct?-- (talk) 07:14, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

I suggest you check the citations provided in both articles. Also suggest you check Languages of Denmark and its citations. Bottom line: both (or all three) articles may be correct: language regulation in every country is a somewhat dynamic matter, thus each citation may be representing a different point in time. (Some places, like Puerto Rico, have even switched back and forth on its official language laws over the years.) Of course, all articles should -ideally- present up-to-date information, but that's a different discussion. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 19:07, 30 August 2013 (UTC), and I approve this message.

Contradiction with List_of_countries_where_English_is_an_official_language[edit]

That article says that Australia does not have an official language whereas here Australia is not included within the fifteen. One of these articles need correcting! GizzaTalk © 12:19, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

From what I can see, Australia has no official language. But see my comment above at Talk:Official language#Denmark. Neverthelss I am going to edit this article to reflect the origin and time (or lack) of the list of countries with no official language. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 19:45, 30 August 2013 (UTC), and I approve this message.

Bad source[edit]

The leaflet "Who has an official language" by a US pressure group [1] is used twice in a reference in this article although it clearly doesn't fulfill the conditions of a reliable source. In fact, at least one of the statements it is used to source contains a clear error of fact: Cyprus, listed among the countries that don't have an official language policy, very explicitly does have one. According to its constitution (Art. 3, cited here: [2], "The official languages of the Republic are Greek and Turkish". Fut.Perf. 13:09, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

What do you suggest as a solution? Mercy11 (talk) 15:42, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
Not sure. Given there has also been a discussion about another case from the same list (Denmark) further up here, it might be best to scrap that source and the material it's used to support altogether. It might be quite difficult to determine a clear cut-off point between states with real "de jure" official languages and states with only de facto official languages anyway. For instance, if Denmark has no official language according to somebody's criteria, but apparently it does according to others, what then – conversely – about a case like Germany (which is described as having one)? Germany is known for actually not having an official language defined in its constitution; it only has some lower-level laws defining German as the working language for certain domains of public administration, the courts etc., but actually nothing covering the totality of official state functions, so to a certain extent here too it's just a "de facto" situation. Fut.Perf. 15:59, 16 September 2013 (UTC)
Japan should also be added to the list of countries lacking an official language. Gon-no-suke (talk) 05:50, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
What's your definition of de facto official? Mercy11 (talk) 17:23, 16 September 2013 (UTC)


I suggest a move of the information in this page to the language table of the nations listed. Speling12345 (talk) 7:04, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

While this page may have several issues, I think it is a nice idea to have a list/table givnig an overview across states and languages. Of course, the info should be available at the pages for each language and for each state too (and be correct and consistent).-- (talk) 11:30, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
"I suggest a move of the information in this page to the language table of the nations listed" ... Why? Perhaps you might want to considere making your case by listing benefits, etc. Mercy11 (talk) 17:34, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

"the means of expression of a people cannot be changed by any law"[edit]

This is a great quote, but I don't think it's used appropriately.

Firstly, the correct quote is "the means of expression of our people is Spanish and that is a reality that cannot be changed by any law." (or "means of expression [...] is a reality that cannot be changed by any law.".

Secondly, this quote is an interesting essay question, not an absolute truth. It refers to a specific outdated and unenforced law that stood in the face of both common and legal practice. Plenty of governments (colonial or otherwise) have deliberately and successfully imposed language restrictions, or restrictions upon other means of expression.

Thirdly, the point here is not that language is some incoruptible medium, but that the word 'official' essentially means 'governmental' in the case of countries, and a great many countries (and events such as the Olympics, or organisations such as the Catholic Church) have an official language for administrative or historical reasons when a number of other languages could be used with equal ease and understanding.

I also think that this article could do with a section about the practices of organisations such as the World Health Organisation, Amnesty International, and (as previously mentioned) the Catholic Church and the International Olympic Committee. (talk) 12:00, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Official language. Please take a moment to review my edit. If necessary, add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether. I made the following changes:

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Question? Archived sources still need to be checked

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