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.
United Nations working languages
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.
Examples of common international organizations
English and French
The International Criminal Court has two working languages: English and French; all Secretaries-General of the UN, therefore, . The Council of Europe, the OECD and NATO also have English and French as their two working languages.
Portuguese and Spanish
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
- The Pacific Alliance and the Central American Integration System have Spanish as their sole working language.
- The Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat has English as its sole working language, though communications are also published in Russian. Although many circumpolar indigenous people speak either an Inuit dialect, a variety of Saami or a Ural-Altaic language, English is likely to be the second or third language that many of them will have in common.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has two working languages: Russian and Chinese.
- The government of East Timor has Indonesian and English as working languages alongside its official languages (Tetun and Portuguese) and 15 other recognized local languages
- The state of Goa in India has Marathi as its working language, but only Konkani has official status in the state.
- English is the working language in ASEAN.
- Greenland has demoted Danish from a co-official language to a working language for pragmatic reasons, since spoken and written Danish remains dominant across several sectors of society, such as health care and higher education.
English, French and Spanish
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
- The European Commission has three working languages: English, French and German.
- FIFA has four working languages: English, French, German and Spanish. Formerly, French was the organization's sole official language. Currently, English is the official language for minutes, correspondence and announcements.
- The African Union currently uses Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili.
- The Southern African Development Community has four working languages: Afrikaans, English, French and Portuguese.
- The Nordic Council has three working languages: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. The Council refers to the languages as dialects of a "united Scandinavian language".
- The Organization of American States has four working languages: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
- Heritage language
- Lingua franca
- International auxiliary language
- List of official languages by institution
-  Archived August 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- Article 50 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Accessed 16 October 2007.
- WOSM constitution, ARTICLE XXIV, 1
- SCOUTS brand manual PROFESSIONAL VERSION, page 49, retrieved from
- "De nordiske sprog | Nordisk Samarbejde". www.norden.org (in Danish). Retrieved 2021-01-30.