Distinguishing Official Language from National Language

Official Language vs National Language

The concept of official and national language is not very common and is primarily used in multilingual countries. In these countries, different sections of the population speak languages other than the one adopted as the national language, as it is spoken by the majority of people. Different administrative units of the country use various languages, known as official languages, while there is a single national language. Confusion often arises between official languages and national languages, especially for those who are outsiders and are bewildered by the many languages used within the country. This article aims to highlight the features of official and national languages to differentiate between them.

What is National Language?

Every country in the world has a national language that reflects its collective identity to the world at large. A national language is given prominence over other languages spoken within the country. In fact, the language receiving the honor of national language is often the one spoken by the majority of the population. The national language of a country is the one in which the government corresponds with international organizations such as the United Nations and other countries.

For example, in India, the national language is Hindi, although it is mainly spoken by North Indians and is not spoken or understood by people living in other parts of the country.

What is Official Language?

Countries are divided into regions called states or provinces where there may be people speaking a different language. This is particularly the case in India, where there are states with populations speaking languages other than Hindi. The state language is given the status of the official language in that state.

However, in some countries where languages are not widely spoken, these languages may be given official status to conserve them. For example, in New Zealand, there is a language called Maori spoken by less than 5% of the population, yet it is considered an official language.

In countries like the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc., an overwhelming percentage of the population speaks the national language, which is the language used in courts and parliament. In India, there are many regional languages; hence, the central government and the courts adopted a three-language formula whereby Hindi, English, or the regional language is used.

Key Takeaways

  • A national language is the language spoken by a majority of the population and reflects the national identity of a country.
  • An official language is the language patronized by the administration and used widely, not just for communication but also for correspondence.
  • There are 22 official languages in India, spoken on a regional basis in different states. The national language is Hindi, although it is spoken and understood mainly by people living in North and central India.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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