Working language

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A working language (also procedural language) is a language that is given a unique legal status in a supranational company, society, state or other body or organization as its primary means of communication. It is primarily the language of the daily correspondence and conversation, since the organization usually has members with various differing language backgrounds.

Most international organizations have working languages for their bodies. For a given organization, a working language may or may not also be an official language.[clarification needed]

United Nations working languages[edit]

Originally English and French were established as working languages at the UN. Later, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish were added as working languages in the General Assembly and in the Economic and Social Council. Currently, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish are the working languages of the Security Council.[1]

Examples of common international organizations[edit]

English and French[edit]

The International Criminal Court[2] has two working languages: English and French; all Secretaries-General of the UN, therefore, are required (unofficially[clarification needed]) to be fluent in both[citation needed]. The Council of Europe, the OECD and NATO also have English and French as their two working languages.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) has English and French as official languages,[3] with Arabic, Russian and Spanish as additional working languages.[4]

Portuguese and Spanish[edit]

The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), Mercosur and the Latin American Integration Association have two working languages: Portuguese and Spanish.

Other groups with one or two working languages[edit]

English, French and Spanish[edit]

The World Trade Organization, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Telecommunication Union, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization, NAFTA, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Free Trade Area of the Americas all have three working languages: English, French and Spanish.

Other groups with three or more working languages[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Archived August 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Article 50 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Accessed 16 October 2007.
  3. ^ WOSM constitution, ARTICLE XXIV, 1
  4. ^ SCOUTS brand manual PROFESSIONAL VERSION, page 49, retrieved from
  5. ^ "De nordiske sprog | Nordisk Samarbejde". (in Danish). Retrieved 2021-01-30.