The crux of this article is to highlight countries with the most official languages in the world. Official languages are those languages that have the legal and constitutional backing of a sovereign nation.
Such languages are often the most widely used in the country, state, and other geopolitical regions within a sovereign nation’s jurisdiction. They are used as media of instruction in schools and public institutions. They are used in drafting the country’s official documents like the constitution and other official books. In most cases, where there is no common native language, these official languages are being used as Franca’s lingua in most countries. While Some nations have more than one official language, some have none at all. USA and Mexico are some of the countries with no official language. The English language is noted to be the most widely used official language worldwide. Over fifty-one countries worldwide adopt English as their official language. Other widely used official languages are Spanish, French, and Arabic.
Papua New Guinea is a country with the most languages in the world with over
800 native languages. The second country with the most spoken languages in Indonesia with more than 700 languages. The third country, with the most spoken languages in the world, is Nigeria.
Nigeria is a country that speaks more than 500 languages. There is a thin line between national language and official language. In most cases, either of them is used in place of the other. But in the real sense, national language does not mean the same thing as official. A national language is one that is most widely spoken by the native and most times taken to be a country’s first language. Whereas, an official language is one that enjoys the legal protection of a nation’s constitutions. It carries the full weight of the constitutional and legal backing of the country. An official language plays a central role in the legal and sociopolitical life of a country. While a national language may be passively mentioned in the nation’s constitution, the official language enjoys the country’s constitution’s monopoly.
In most African countries, the native languages are categorized as national languages. The national languages only enjoy officiality and formality in schools and other public institutions. Nonsurvereign or stateless nations lack the judicial power to adopt any language as its official language. All the languages used are categorized as national languages. The question that should be boggling in your curious mind official now is this: which country has the most official languages in the world?
Countries With the Most Official Languages in the World
India has about 22 official languages. But the most widely used official language with about 41% of native speakers is the Hindi language. India is the second-most populous country in the world, with a population of 1.35 billion people. The Hindi language has 523 million speakers, and other native languages share 59% of the country’s population. India falls among the first four multilingual countries in the world with about 454 languages. The other most widely spoken official languages in India after Hindi are English, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil. Below is a list of the most spoken official first languages in India.
Hindi – 528 million speakers
Hindi is the most spoken first language in the country, with 41% of speakers. It is ranked the fourth most widely spoken first language worldwide. Of late, efforts have been made to make Hindi the most spoken language in the country. This effort is entrenched by modifying the numerals on rupee notes to Devanagari script, which is used to transcribe Hindi.
Bengali -97 million speakers
Bangali is the official language of Bangladesh. It is also called Bangala by most local speakers. The Bengali language is spoken by 8% of the Indian native speakers. The language is reckoned as the fifth most widely spoken native language worldwide.
Marathi – 83 Million Speakers
Marathi is spoken by 7%
percent of the Indian population.
The language is speculated to be 1,300 years old. It is an official language of states situated in the western part of the country ( Maharashtra and Goa inclusive)
Telugu – 81 Million Speakers
This Davidian language is most widely spoken in the following states in the country:
- Nicobar Islands
- Tamil Nadu
The language’s earliest writings could be traced as far back as 400 BCE. Telugu words were boldly inscribed on coins. But widespread usage of the language in written form is 575 AD. The inscription was purported to have been made by Renati Cholas, famous for his royal inscription in the Telugu language in place of the customary Sanskrit.
Tamil – 67 Million Speakers
Tamil is reckoned as one of the oldest languages in the contemporary world. This accounts for why it is among the classical languages in India. About 6% of the Indian population speak Tamil. The language is spoken in the country’s southern regions, especially in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The Tamil language is used as an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore. It is recognized as one of the minority languages spoken by South African citizens, Malaysia, and Mauritius. The earliest writings in Tamil could be traced back to 500BC. The language gained much literary popular in 300 AD in its unalterable form known as the ‘Old Tamil.’
Zimbabwe appears a country with the most languages worldwide. The Zimbabwean Constitution adopts 16 languages as its official language. The zimbabwe broke the Guinness book of record as one of the countries with the highest number of official language enshrined in the country. The official language includes:
- sign language
However, despite the country’s numerous official languages, most of the official languages are not promoted. Even though the constitution categorically states that all the officials be treated equally, English, Shona, and Ndebele are much more popular than others. About 70% of the Zimbabwean population speak Shona, and about 20% speak Ndebele as their first language. English is widely spoken by natives as a second language and used as an official language of communication and instructions in most government institutions. The constitution allows that official languages be incorporated in the constitution through an act of parliament. The constitution does not give room for any official language to be expunged from the list.
With about 11 Official languages, South Africa is another country with the world’s most official languages. Out of over thirty-five native languages spoken in South Africa, about ten are adopted as official languages. The eleventh of the conventional languages is the English language, which is most widely used in parliamentary deliberations. All official languages are enjoying equal legal status as enshrined by the constitution. All other unofficial languages spoken in the country enjoy legal and constitutional protections. Here is a list of the
Official languages in South Africa:
- Northern Sotho
The most widely spoken First language in the country is the Zulu language, spoken by 23% of the population. The second widely spoken first language in the country is the Xhosa, spoken by 16 percent of the population. Afrikaan is the fourth widely spoken first official language, with 14% speaking the language. English is the fourth most widely spoken official language spoken by 9.6% of the population.
The Bolivian constitution outlines 38 ethnic groups and languages, but only four languages are given legal status. The following are the most recognized official languages in Bolivia:
Spanish ( spoken by 84% of the population)
Quechua (spoken by 84% of the population)
Aymara ( spoken by 18% of the population)
Guaraní ( spoken by 1% of the population)
Bosnia has three official languages. The languages include Serbia, Bosnian, and Croatian. Although the three official languages bear semblance with each other, the main language widely spoken by the Bosnian citizens is the Bosnian language.
Belgium adopts three languages as official languages. The three languages enjoy equal legal status and protection as enshrined in the country’s constitution. The languages include Flemish, French, and German. Out of the three official languages, the Flemish language is spoken by 59% of the Belgian population. The French language is spoken by 40% of the population, and the German language is spoken by 1% percent of the population.
The following countries also adopt three languages as their official languages, according to indy100.com.
Rwanda: French, English, and Kinyarwanda
Seychelles: Seselwa, French Creole and English
Vanuatu: English Bislama and French
Papua New Guinea: English, Tok Pisin, and Hiri Motu
There are five widely spoken languages among the Palauan population, but English and Palauan are the country’s official languages. The most popular languages spoken by The Palauan citizens include:
Among the five languages listed above, English and Palauan are the country’s two languages official languages. The other three languages are regarded as regional languages.
Among other numerous reasons, official languages are used as veritable tools to foster national unity, especially in multilingual nations. An official language harmonizes and synthesizes languages’ diversity in multilingual nations and makes citizens speak in one voice as one united people. While most countries adopt one language as their official language, some countries adopt more than one language as their official language.
As at the time of writing this article, there are only two countries without official languages. These countries, as earlier stated, are the USA and Mexico. Even though English is adopted as the defacto Language for business and Government, U SA has no official language. In this same vein, Mexico has no official language but adopts Spanish for administrative and business purposes.