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.

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.[1]

Examples of common international organizations

English and French

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

Other groups with one or two working languages

English, French and Spanish

The World Trade Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization, NAFTA 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.

See also