An official language is the officially designated language of the authorities of a country or an international organisation. It is used both by the authorities among themselves and for communication between offices and citizens. Several official languages can exist in parallel within a country. Synonyms for official language are state language or language of the authorities.
An official language is the official language of a state. This is the language in which laws are enacted, administrative acts are drafted, court hearings are conducted and information is provided to citizens. When applications or evidence are submitted to a public authority in a foreign language, the authority usually requires a translation into the official language of a country.
Function of a uniform, official language
By establishing a uniform language, communication between government, authorities and citizens is made possible or simplified.
Official languages among international authorities
International authorities such as the European Union (EU) also have official languages. In the EU, 24 languages are currently recognised as official and working languages, derived from the official languages of the 27 member states. The EU is committed to linguistic diversity and therefore gives every citizen the right to address the authority in his or her national language. For this reason, the EU administration employs numerous interpreters and translators.
Official languages in Germany
In Germany, the official language is German. German is the generic term for High German, Low German and all dialects.
Official languages of other countries
Most countries, like Germany, have only one official language. However, there are also examples of countries with two or more official languages. Switzerland, for example, has four official languages: French, Italian, German and Romansh. Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German and Luxembourgish. In Belgium, communication is in French, German and Dutch. The official languages in Finland are Finnish and Swedish. Countries with several official languages often agree on a separate working language for internal communication.
Official language versus mother tongue
The official language is the official language of a country, which does not always reflect the actual mother tongues of the citizens living there. The national language, on the other hand, is the language spoken by the majority of the population.
The national language is the language spoken by the majority of the population.
A working language is the established language of communication within an international organisation such as the European Union. A lingua franca is the language used for communication in tourism and long-distance trade.
FAQ: More questions about official language
How can you describe official language in one sentence?
The official language is the official language of a country in which the government, authorities and citizens communicate with each other.
How many official languages are there?
There are about 6,500 official languages in the world.
Which country has no official language?
In some countries, no official language is defined, for example in Kenya, Kiribati, Mauritius, Narau, Palau and Fiji.
Is sign language an official language?
Efforts are being made in various countries to enshrine sign language in law. In New Zealand, New Zealand Sign Language is actually established as one of the official languages, alongside English and Māori.
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