Multilingualism in International Organizations

Multilingualism in an International Organization is defined as an environment where multiple languages are spoken. The organization is also generally funded by grants or contributions from mainly national governments. Most of the people working for the organization are from various parts of the world with a subset of their own national language which becomes a part of the organization’s overall lingual etiquette.  A couple of broad instances of these organizations include the United Nations’ agencies, the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration.

Official Organizational Languages

Multilingualism in an international organization requires declaring a specific set of languages as official. The reason why that’s important is because then everyone knows that all official communication has to be set in those languages. Take the United Nations for instance which has Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and English as its official language. French and English have been designated as working languages which means that they are used for day-to-day exchanges like emails, memos, etc. The key to identifying an official set of languages and subsequently a working set of languages is to have an organizational consensus.

One method is to choose the top spoken or written languages in an organization. Some international organizations may also choose the official language from each language they operate it. So, for instance, an organization operating in Egypt, USA, France, and Turkey may have English, French, Arabic and Turkish as its official languages.

Understanding the goal of a multilinguistic international organization

The goals can vary from being able to accommodate people from all cultures and countries to be able to communicate with the target audience in different countries. The choice of languages should foster dialog and make cooperation by employees and participating sub-divisions easier. Once a goal is established charting out exactly which languages will help an organization achieve that goal becomes easier. However, there are organizations like the UN that have multiple goals which is why their primarily linguistic objective is to make communication and dialog between civil society, member states, intergovernmental bodies and international organizations easier.

The role of translators in international organizations

Multilingualism in an international organization is made easier with the help of expert translators. The vast majority of translators work in liaison with various facets of the communication department ensuring smooth and clear communications. Most organizations have at least one translator for each official language, while larger organizations may have multiple translators. Also, large organizations like the UN usually have multi-lingual employees.

Employees are also put through cultural appropriation seminars and training to ensure that each and everyone understands their coworkers regardless of where they may be located. Large corporate organizations like Google have invested and continue to invest millions in ensuring that they have the required linguistic tools for cross-border communication.

Multilinguistic organizations are more productive and offer better opportunities to both the organization and employees alike. It is for this reason that many large businesses are moving towards multilingualism regardless of them being for or non-profit.