An official language is something that is given a unique status in the countries, states, and other territories. It is typically the language used in a nation's legislative bodies, though the law in many nations requires that government documents be produced in other languages as well.
Officially recognized minority languages are often mistaken for official languages. However, a language officially recognized by a state, taught in schools, and used in official communication is not necessarily an official language. For example, Ladin and Sardinian in Italy and Mirandese in Portugal are only officially recognized minority languages, not official languages in the strict sense.
Half of the countries in the world have official languages. Some have only one official language, such as Albania, France, or Lithuania, despite the fact that in all these countries there are other native languages spoken as well. Some have more than one official language, such as Afghanistan, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Eritrea, Finland, India, Paraguay, South Africa, and Switzerland.
In some countries, such as Iraq, Italy, Russia and Spain, there is an official language for the country, but other languages are co-official in some important regions. Some countries, such as Australia, Sweden, Tuvalu, and the United States have no official languages.
The official languages of some former colonies, typically French or English, are not the national languages or the most widely spoken language.
In contrast, as a consequence of nationalism, Irish is the "national language" of the Republic of Ireland and its first official language, although it is spoken by only a small fraction of its people. English, which is spoken by the majority, is described only as the second official language (Constitution of Ireland, Article 8).
In some countries, the issue of which language is to be used in what context is a major political issue.