Countries With the Most Official Languages

In countries where more than one official language exists, it is not uncommon to see signs in multiple languages.
In countries where more than one official language exists, it is not uncommon to see signs in multiple languages.

An official language is a language that is considered to be a country’s universal language and is given a legal status within the country, state, or other jurisdiction. An official language is often used within government institutions, schools, and more. 178 countries worldwide have at least one official language with about 100 of these countries recognizing more than one language. The constitutions of several countries give provision for a language to be considered as an official in that country. English is the most common official language with a recognized status in 51 countries. Other popular official languages include French, Arabic, and Spanish.

India has more official languages than any other country in the world, at 22. However, it is important to note that these languages are not official at the national level of India and instead are official at the regional level. When it comes to official languages, Zimbabwe has more than any other country, at 16.

Official Language Versus National Language

National language and official language are often used interchangeably although they are not the same thing. A national language is a language that enjoys popularity and is spoken as the first language in a territory of a country. Unlike an official language which enjoys a legal status in a country’s constitution, a national language may be mentioned in the constitution but is not guaranteed legal status. In several African countries, some of the indigenous languages are considered national languages and can also be included as official languages in public institutions. Stateless countries are not in a position to legislate an official language but most of their languages are sufficiently considered national languages.

Official Languages of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has the highest number of official languages in the world. Zimbabwe’s constitution has provision for 16 official languages which are Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and sign language. Although Zimbabwe has many official languages, there were complaints made by the public saying the majority of the languages were not promoted and came second to English, Ndebele, and Shona. The constitution of Zimbabwe requires that institutions and government agencies treat all of the languages equal. The government is also required to promote the languages within the country. Although the constitution allows official languages to be added through an Act of Parliament, official languages are not allowed to be removed from the list.

Popular Official Languages in Zimbabwe

While Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, there are three languages that are the most popular. English, Shona, and Ndebele are commonly used official languages in Zimbabwe. Since the majority of the population is Shona, 70% of the people speak Shona as their first language. Around 20% of the population speaks Ndebele as their first language. English is generally spoken as a second language and is used in most state functions and government institutions.

Languages of India

While India has 22 official regional languages, Hindi is by far the most spoken language i the country. The other major languages of the country are English, bengali, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil.


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