It is not common to hear about national language and official language in many countries and hence, these countries are mostly bilingual. Some sections of people speak national language adopted by the constitution and the others speak an official language. Various administrative sections of a nation use various languages known as official languages, despite following a distinct national language.Confusion has always been there between a national language and official language, especially for the outsiders. Foreigners often get puzzled with the use of so many languages in countries like Singapore and India. It is not easy for them to understand the significance of different languages and dialects being used in just one country.
The official language is the language that is used in government functions. It is used to avail all services of the government by law. For instance, Singapore uses four official languages- English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin Chinese.
If you want to deal with any of the government services, you can use any of these languages and law permits you to avail the services in these languages. Business Chinese is a popular language in the country that gives tremendous scope to learn Chinese in Singapore. The official language is patronized by the government and it is used for correspondence.
Countries are divided into various regions known as provinces or states where people may speak a very different language. A great example for this is India, where every state has its own unique language and these states have a different official language for their documentation and correspondence. In addition, there are countries that assign an official status to a language only to preserve them and protect them from becoming extinct. For instance, Maori language of New Zealand is used by under 5% population of the country, but it is still given an official status.
Countries such as UK, USA, Germany, Italy, and France have an overwhelming percentage of their population which uses their national language. Their national language is used in parliament and courts. Indians use several regional languages that is why the courts and the central government adopted a formula of three languages, which allows the states to use their regional language, English, or Hindi.
The National language is used for general purposes but has the status that is more special in any country. A national language can be an official language in a country as well. Malay is the indigenous language of Singapore, but it was assigned the status of an official much later. The military drills and national anthem are conducted in Malay and the language is particularly defended in their constitution.
Every country has a language, which is used to reflect its communal individuality to the world. National language has more prominence in any country over other dialects or languages spoken by the citizens. In fact, national language gets its status only because it is spoken by most of the population. It is also used to correspond with organizations at international level such as the United Nations.