As a measure of nationalism and culture, language holds an important place in fortifying cultural identity that extends beyond the mere act of communication. In terms of definition, an official language is one that has been enshrined and legalized in the country’s constitution or territories. With nearly 200 nations recognized by the United Nations, only a scant handful do not have a nationally recognized official language.
For a nation that once sprawled across the globe and controlled a quarter of the world’s population, the Queen’s English has never been recognized as an official language in the United Kingdom. That said however, English is the de facto language spoken in the country. The United States does not have an officially recognized language, but there has been a push in 20 states to initiate legislation mandating an English only approach. The Founding Fathers eschewed elevating English as the official language believing that the decision would be divisive. Australia does not have an official language, although English is the de facto language spoken by more than four-fifths of the populace. Likewise, the country does not have any national language, and the linguistic status of the country’s aboriginal population is close to extinction. Attempts to revive these languages is under way in Australia.
Mexico uses Spanish as the most popular language spoken in the country, the government has not recognized that language as the official language of the country. The reasoning behind this decision is because the government wants to promote the nation’s native languages before those spoken in foreign countries.
Nations That Have Recently Changed Their Language Status
Language policy, like language itself, is never static and in constant flux. Towards that end, several countries have long not recognized an official language have recently changed policies.
Pakistan recently elevated Urdu to the status of official language in 2015. A religious based society, Pakistan seeks to unite the country behind a commonly spoken language. Ethiopia has a majority of Oromo speakers but has elevated Amharic to the status of official language Somali as elevated Arabic and Somali to official status; although, owing to its colonial past, Italian is spoken by an array of people in Somalia.