How many languages are spoken at Headquarters?
As part of the year-long activities to celebrate 2008 International Year of Languages, the Learning Section/OHRM’s Language and Communications Programme has a How Many Languages are spoken at UNHQ? campaign.
The campaign kicked off with an event Wednesday, 18 June in the Secretariat Lobby collecting linguistic information from staff members and mission diplomats. Participants were asked to complete a simple linguistic personal information form, stating among other things, their mother tongue, second language and foreign language learnt.
Based on relevant data from other studies on multilingualism, the number of staff members and permanent missions in New York, the Learning Section estimates that at least 350 languages are spoken at Headquarters. This campaign aims to more accurately document this number.
There will also be a multimedia component of the campaign, where interested participants would be videotaped or have their photos taken for a documentary on the benefits of respecting language diversity and promoting multilingualism in multilateral organizations.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of language diversity at the UNHQ, bring internal attention to the richness of culture varieties in the Organization as well as draw international attention to the linguistic diversity in multilateral organizations.
The results of the campaign will be displayed in various formats in the Secretariat lobby in September.
On 16 May 2007, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as International Year of Languages. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the year-long celebration on 21 February 2008 under the general slogan: "Languages matter".
The Language and Communications Programme has the mandate to implement the declaration within the UN Secretariat to promote multilingualism and the importance of language diversity in the work of the Organization.