Making Swahili visible: the 7th official UN official language

Making Swahili visible: the 7th official UN official language

The United Nations (UN) is the most prominent political structure in the world. Including 193 sovereign states as members, the UN resembles an international parliament. The membership, positions, honors, or anything regarding the UN are highly significant for any state (nations). Currently, there are 6 official and working languages for the United Nations; English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic are these languages. These languages are official or intelligible in more than 120 states, though these languages are accepted and used in these populations.

The code for the United Nations in 1945 doesn’t mention any official languages. Gradually, supported by circulars in later years, the United Nations adopted these languages as official and working languages. There are demands for adding more languages; several governments and language-speaking state communities are urging to include their languages. Languages like Portuguese, Turkish, Hindi, and Bengali are some of the contenders.

So, what happens if a language becomes the official language of the United Nations? One significant privilege will be the interpretation and documentation of official languages inside the United nations. Official languages gain prominence and nobleness, which is why  “The United Nation’s Official Language” is more than just a representation of status.

When we analyze the United Nations or any international organizations, we can see a restricted representation of Africa in these communities throughout the decades. There will be many reasons like political uncertainties, feeble GDPs, etc. The “Organization for the World” cannot be one of them by overlooking these African states and their interests. Almost every African nation adopted Arabic, English, and French as their official languages even though none of them are of African origin and popularized through colonization. 

Some say “Language of World War 2 winners” some are counting the number of speakers, these are the eligibility criteria for making a language official in the UN? Whatever it is, “Swahili” is a well-deserved nominee for the 7th official language

The Swahili language, also known as Kiswahili, is the most spoken, most digitized African language. It is the official language in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. There are a significant number of Swahili in Burundi, DR Congo, Mozambique, and Comoros. With Swahili’s growing popularity as an African Language, many states in Africa started teaching the language in their schools. Digitalization and Hollywood movies like “The Lion King” helped to promote Swahili’s reach on African diasporas and language lovers around the globe. Presently Swahili language content is gaining popularity in almost every digital language learning platform.

This “Bantu” group language has a lot of loan words from Arabic, English, German, Portuguese, Hindi, and Malay. So it’s considered a very distinct and easily learnable language. While other African languages fail to grow further than an ethnic language; recently, Swahili became one of the “unofficially” popularly used languages in several United Nations bodies. Swahili is also one of the official languages of the African Union, East African Community, and Southern African Development Community.

Many individuals, as well as organizations associated, openly admit that the economics of the United Nations is too ineffective. When adding a new official language, it will be expensive to engage new resources, translators, and language documentation. Payroll for these processes will be the responsibility of the demanding community or state, other demanders like Portugal and India can afford this; but in the case of Swahili, it will be challenging.

Tanzania and Kenya are more related to Swahili than any other state. Being underdeveloped nations, financing for the United Nations will be an added burden for their inadequate economies. Swahili is rising as a Pan-African language, so it would be great if Pan-African funding was issued to support the inclusion of this African language. No doubt there, the addition of Swahili, which will make the United Nations motto more meaningful – “This is your World.”


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