Official Language vs National Language
The concept of official and national language is not a very common one and is mainly used in countries that are multi linguistic in nature. In such countries, there are sections of population speaking languages different from the one that has been adopted as the national language as it is spoken by a majority of the people. Different administrative units of the country use different languages that are called official languages of divisions while there is a single national language. There is always the confusion between the official language and the national language in the minds of those who are outsiders, and they are bewildered to see so many languages being used in the country. This article attempts to highlight the features of official and national languages to differentiate between them.
What is National Language?
Every country of the world has a national language that reflects its collective identity to the world at large. A national language in any given country is given prominence over other languages spoken inside the country by the people. In fact, the language getting the honor of national language is often one that is spoken by the majority of the population of the country. National language of a country is the one in which the government corresponds with international organizations such as UN and other countries.
Talking of India, the national language is Hindi though it is a language spoken by mostly North Indians and is not spoken or understood by people living in other parts of the country.
What is Official Language?
Countries of the world are divided into regions called states or provinces where there may be people speaking an altogether different language. This is particularly the case in India where there are states having population speaking other than Hindi. The state language is given the status of the official language in that state.
However, in some countries where there are languages that are not widely spoken, these languages may be given official status in an effort to conserve them. For example, in NZ, there is a language called Maori that is spoken by less than 5% of the population yet it is called an official language.
In countries like USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy etc, overwhelming percentage of the population speaks the national language, and it is the language used in courts and parliament. In India, there are so many regional languages; hence, the central government and the courts had to adopt a three-language formula whereby it is Hindi, English, or the regional language that is used.
What is the difference between Official Language and National Language?
• Official language is the language patronized by the administration and used widely, not just for communication, but also for correspondence.
• National language is the language spoken by a majority of the population of a country and reflects the national identity of a country.
• There are 22 official languages in India; they are spoken on a regional basis in different states of the country. The national language of India is Hindi although it is spoken and understood mainly by people living in North and central India.