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The use of Spanish in the United Nations demands strategies

The "endemic monolingualism" in the UN is analyzed in the new report of the Cervantes Observatory

The new release in the Informes del Observatorio/Observatorio Reports of the Instituto Cervantes at the University of Harvard has as its main theme the increased use of Spanish within the system of the United Nations, where it has already been placed as the third most used language. David Fernández-Vítores, PhD in Spanish Philology and professor at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, examines the position of the Spanish in the structure of the United Nations.

The Spanish official status within the UN encourages and enables use in both formal meetings and speeches and other documents, occupying the third position in terms of its use as a working language. Fernández-Vítores explains that, in many cases, the difficulty of meeting internal deadlines or the urgency of meetings makes it difficult for accurate translations, so all the reports end up written in English, which left the Spanish as a "language of translation."

The UN also seeks to promote multilingualism within the organization, especially by encouraging Language and Communications Program of the United Nations. In the case of Spanish, its purpose is to promote and facilitate both learning and language use and knowledge of different cultures of Hispanic countries. Fernández-Vítores says that every year the number of new students differs between 1500 and 2000 students, also varying the number of special projects, most of them focused on external projects such as film, culture and cooperation and development courses.

It is in these aspects and in the interest in learning Spanish by the UN staff where we find an increase in weight of the language, even beating the French despite the institutional importance of it. But Fernández-Vítores explains the threat warning of "almost endemic monolingualism" that prevails in the United Nations system and favors decisively into English. There are initiatives by some members of the UN as the "Group of Friends of the Spanish in the United Nations", but they have little impact. English clearly occupies a prominent place within the organization.

The periodical Informes del Observatorio/Observatorio Reports appears monthly on the website of the Observatory of the Instituto Cervantes at Harvard University, which is the main communication tool for different academic and research activities of the Instituto Cervantes at Harvard - FAS. The new report is available here.

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