The UN has great language difficulties

The UN has six official languages, which has proven to be heavy going and very expensive. There are currently 191 member states.

The official languages of the UN are English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. (UNESCO has 9 official languages but only 6 working languages.) Strong lobbying groups are pressing for the introduction of Portuguese, Hindi, Japanese and other languages as official UN languages. Why should they not acquire this status, would that not be fair? The UN should pose as an example of fairness. Why does the UN not do so? Why does the UN not do so?

Why does the majority accept the situation?

The UN thus has six working languages, which hardly makes the co-operation easier. It is strange that the representatives of some nations are allowed to speak in their mother tongues at the UN meetings, whereas most others do not have this benefit. Even more strange is the fact that the majority of the members of the UN accept this situation. Most of the delegates have not any of the six official languages as their native language.

At one occation, the members of the WHO (World Health Organization) allowed an additional grant of 5 million USD for translation and interpretation, whilst the same meeting rejected a request for 4.2 million USD for a health project in Africa.

Why is Japanese not an official UN language?

Why should the delegates from Japan, Germany, Brazil and Madagascar not be allowed to speak in the General Assembly in their own language, whilst for instance a delegate from Syria can use his rhetorical powers in his mother tongue? Either the UN will have to do as the EU and allow the languages of all the member states to be official languages, or it will have to choose a neutral language for daily use. Which alternative do you think will be the cheapest and be the best one to promote international dialogue?

Thanks to the large global importance of the EU the UN would have to add Esperanto to its list of official languages, if the EU was to use Esperanto as its sole working language. After a generation or so, Esperanto would so completely dominate the workings of the UN (thanks to how easy it is to learn), that Esperanto would naturally become the only official language of the organization.

© Hans Malv, 2004