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In the United States, some feel very strongly that English should be declared the official language. One of the arguments in favor of this is that a common language is a powerful common ground that binds people together. Québec is cited as an example, since they speak French in an English-speaking country and have enough dissension to consider seceding.

So, is there an example of a country that declared an official language and saw positive benefits as a result?

  • What is your definition of "tangibly benefitting a country"? It may be impossible to answer without knowing which effects you consider beneficial. – user4012 Dec 16 '12 at 13:53
  • I might edit this later to maybe make the question about how policies have affected, rather than how policies have benefited. Broaden it a bit. – Brendan Dec 16 '12 at 14:50
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    Do you mean just declaring without any change or changing some policy in accordance? In the US English is the official language even if not declared so. You cannot interact with US government in any other language. If you send them a letter in Russian or French, they will not respond. – Anixx May 25 '13 at 12:52
  • India has thousands of active languages and declaring Hindi as the official language has created a sense of alienness among people who don't know Hindi. And the government's decision to push Hindi at every level is doing more harm than good. – Niteesh Shanbog Apr 9 '19 at 6:47
  • Are you asking about declaring one language to be the official language, excluding all others, or declaring potentially multiple languages official? – Caleth Apr 9 '19 at 11:01
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Since the adoption of the 2009 constitution, Bolivia has 37 official languages. Government agencies are required to operate in at least two of these: Spanish, and an indigenous language appropriate to the region.

A claimed benefit of this policy is that indigenous people (who, in rural areas, often speak little or no Spanish) have genuine access to government services that they might otherwise be unable to make effective use of (or even know that they exist).

I'm not aware of any studies that have shown how successful this policy is; after less than four years, it may be too early to make a definitive judgement.

  • It's a good answer, but seems to be answering the opposite of what the OP asked? – user4012 Dec 16 '12 at 13:51
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It's hard to answer the question as is, since "benefitting" is not well defined.

  • If you consider financial aspects, then having an official language is clearly beneficial - you don't have to spend money on signs, documentation, translators, etc... in either government, or private sphere when it is regulated.

  • Also, in general, from economic standpoint, having more communication and less barriers is usually a Good Thing. As such, lacking an official language impedes commerce to a degree.

  • This doesn't answer the question. You are speculating as to what the benefits might be, not citing some country that has done this, and what benefits it found – Caleth Apr 9 '19 at 13:29
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Now, here are a couple of other possible "benefits", these aren't quite objective so I split them off into a separate answer.

  • If you consider one of the main aspects of a nation state to be a common culture, then the benefit is that you don't have a part of demographics which is not immersed in such a common culture, adopting common values and ideas.

    One of the more commonly cited examples of this - though I wasn't able to find any meaningful statistics to back it up aside from very clear anecdotal evidence - is immigration from Latin America to USA. There seems to be a good deal of correlation between strongly leftist political views, especially economic ones (independently of views about illegal immigration) between those immigrants and communities that refused to adopt English and integrate into American society, and those that did.

    • One can argue that a large driver behind this is inherently leftist cultural values in the countries of origin which are retained without exposure to American ideas. This is true both internally to Latin immigrant community, and when comparing that community to other immigration waves (e.g. Irish, Italian) who also came from demographics with strong Left tendencies at the time. Lest someone wants to spin this as racism, the same pattern can be seen in Soviet immigrants. Those that fully integrated into American society and speak fluent English are, at large, strongly economically-right-to-libertarian. Those who still speak only Russian and cling to Soviet culture are a lot more likely to be pro-Democrat.
  • An independent but related factor is that those restricted to small insular community are more likely to lose out on opportunities to advance that the larger country offers. If you don't speak fluent prevalent language, your prospects of higher paying jobs are much smaller. And if the country doesn't have an official language, inherent human laziness frequently wins and people refuse to learn host country lanaguage, since they don't have to go to the trouble, especially when government coddles and encourages this by working extra hard to accommodate them. This is less of an issue in Canada, but more of an issue in countries where multilingualism is due to smaller immigrant communities.

  • An additional benefit is that having multiple languages and not speaking a common one is very frequently merely a symptom of deep cultural divides between population. While having an official language may merely suppress the symptom, it may also help solve the underlying problem; since said cultural divides are harder to maintain when everyone speaks the same language and people are exposed to diverse views.

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