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Languages, Official

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Chapter Summary

The term official language usually refers to a language admitted for oral and written statements. As the UN Charter does not contain any language rules except for the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations began its work with the five languages of the five equally authentic versions of the Charter: Chinese, French, Russian, English and Spanish. As distinguished from these official languages, however, the respective rules of procedure of the individual organs chose as working languages those languages into which all statements made in an official language had to be interpreted and translated. To French and English, the two working languages taken over from the League of Nations, some principal organs gradually added Spanish, Russian and Chinese, until all five original official languages had become working languages, too, in the General Assembly and the Security Council, so that they were referred to from then on as languages only.

Keywords: German translation; International Court of Justice (ICJ); League of Nations; official language; UN Charter; UN General Assembly



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