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What Is The Significance of Language In Diplomatic Practices

In diplomacy, language is as significant as any other diplomatic instrument. The language of diplomacy is distinctive. It has its characteristics, nuances, and jargon. It is not new to diplomacy, it has been designed and formalized to grease and maintain communication between nations and people. It has a special pattern that is sometimes repetitive, but diplomats around the world have used the same pattern for written communication known as diplomatic notes.

Further, it has been called by multiple names including, note verbal, aide memoir, memorandum, or the third person note. Diplomatic language softens and lightens the negative impact when intended by providing the other party a chance to reply politely. Mode and way of communication have a huge role in the diplomatic activity of a country. You will read the significance of language in diplomacy in this blog.

The Importance of Language In Diplomacy

Language is not just a way of communication rather it is the essence of diplomacy. Common language builds a sense of belonging and connection among people in a community. They together build an information-sharing network with powerful combined power.

Language in diplomacy is as important today as it was to early diplomats and envoys. The conduct of all the instruments of diplomacy including negotiations, presentation, communication, persuasion, and dialogue requires language skills. Both spoken and written language need the proficiency of skills and concepts to consider context and message. In diplomacy, language is also used to convey actions such as to show acknowledgment, threaten, warn, give advice, and suggest to tell the other party that we are not just saying it, we mean it. The role of non-verbal communication is also crucial in diplomacy. 

Knowing the use of language in diplomacy can guide and comprehend a better understanding of the functions of diplomacy.  Through critical and careful attention to several components of diplomatic language, we can enhance our comprehension of both the implicit and explicit messages sent by political figures and other international leaders and improve our ability to effectively and appropriately communicate.

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Which Language Is Best For Diplomatic Use?

There is no single common diplomatic language in today’s world. Earlier, one language served as a common language for some time. It was mostly used for interstate communication restricted to certain political groups of a state or some geographical area. Such languages include Acadian, literary Chinese, Koiné Greek, Medieval Greek, Arabic, Latin, Turkish, French, Spanish, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and English (recently). This shows that many attempts have been made to impose one common language or another by providing the argument that, it is more feasible, clearer, more expressive, more flexible, more redefined or eloquent, and most suitable for conducting negotiations in international relations. In turn, multiple languages have tried to take this place but still, it is indecisive. 

Another concern is the dominant role that one language will possess in diplomacy if it is given the title of international diplomatic language upon others, which results from strategic, economic, political, social, and cultural domination of one powerful state or another in international politics. 

Language in Written Communication

In written communication, diplomatic language is generally decided (mostly in bilateral agreements). It is based generally on the principle of sovereign equality of states, one of the important principles of contemporary International Law. There are various formulas when this principle is applied to linguistic grounds, symmetrically; 

1. Bilateral Communication

  1. Each party writes its agreements, notes, or letters in its language. For example; the Polish Ministry and their embassy write in Polish in Hungary. Similarly, the Hungarian Ministry and their embassy write in Hungarian in Poland. 
  1. Each party also writes in the language of the other party. For example, the Hungarian Embassy in Poland writes a document in Polish along with Hungarian. 
  1. The correspondence or communication between both parties is conducted in the local language of the country where this agreement is taking place. For example; the communication language will be Hungarian if the correspondence is taking place in Hungary. 
  1. Further, Both parties use a mutually agreed third language, i-e English, French, or German. 

2. Multilateral Communication

In multilateral diplomatic activity, the use of language is more complicated and critical. To solve the linguistic issue, several tries have been made by numerous diplomatic conferences and international organizations. They are less or more successful by filtering the multitude of intercommunication possibilities in the smaller number of the preferred languages, known as working or official language.

In multilateral diplomacy, the advance in democratization in international relations increased the number of languages to conduct multilateral diplomatic activity.  While the notion of the sovereign equality of states and nations, large and small, poor or rich, cannot be equivocal. The implementation of this principle in practical life is against the astronomical price of interpretation at diplomatic conferences and translating the huge amount of written information and data for multilateral settings. Further, the interpretation mostly is incorrect, and impersonal. For example, the name of the United Nations, in French, English, and Spanish is “United Nations”. While, in Russia, the UN is named “The Organization of United Nations”. 

Speech Act Theory

Words have been viewed as different from actions by the popular dichotomy.  However,  language can also be used for taking action. The Speech Act theory demonstrates that words not only have the ability to give spark to actions, but several statements are actions in themselves. This viewpoint of language is important in conducting diplomacy. as action is significant for diplomacy. Diplomats perform actions in the world by language as it affirms diplomatic communication and interventions do not just serve as a way to an end rather it is an end in themselves. So, it is important to understand how language is used as a means by diplomats in diplomacy. 

The Speech Act theory allows us to differentiate between invites us to distinguish between an actual act of stating something, how one said it, and the results attained by saying it. It also differentiates between indirect and direct speech acts. Actions of direct speech are either indicated explicitly such as I warn, I promise you or by predetermined phrases like “hereby”. while in the act of indirect communication, the intended message of the communicator has to be deduced from the context or the surrounding circumstances.

Language and Power

Language is seen as possessing no power of its own but it can produce and maintain influence by showing the power of the speaker. It becomes the power of the community. In today’s world, English has maintained the status of a global language. 

a) Language Unites A Nation

In a nation, there are people from different ethnic backgrounds and diverse cultures living in the same territory, or being a nation they speak and write the same language. This demonstrates the unifying influence of the common language. Furthermore, it presents the shared national identity and contributes to the psychological distinctiveness of the people. National leaders seized upon such power to serve the national interest and unite their country. 

b) Language Maintains Existing Influence

Language produces and maintains existing influence in various ways, such as; linguistic sexism, the ascent, and the style of legal language. For the reasons mentioned, English represents an international language, and global lingua franca, and provides non-native English countries a medium to participate in the international system. This puts influence on the rest of the nations to accommodate themselves to English. Thus, this created the preeminence of English among other languages.

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Language Diplomacy and Bilingual Ambitions: A Case Study of Taiwan

President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced an agenda for a “Bilingual Nation by 2030” in 2020. The goal of the agenda is to achieve a high level of English proficiency along with Taiwanese in Taiwan. It is one of the economic and diplomatic goals in which the government views English as the means to increase international cooperation and improve its relations with the global community. In this way, Taiwan will replace the influence of the Chinese and effectively bolster English which will strengthen US -Taiwan relations. 

The Taiwanese government is making efforts to achieve bilingualism. These are; training of teachers to increase their vocabulary and English fluency. Secondly, translation of official documents and government websites into English to attract international business. Further, Taiwan established a professional translation bureau to outsource tasks of translations and help Taiwan achieve its strategic language policy objectives. 

The US sponsored a Language Flagship, an initiative to improve the skills of Americans in linguistics added to the National Taiwan University of Taiwan in 2019. It may look like Taiwan has increased the reach of language diplomacy in the future as the Chinese Confucius Institutes have recently been shut down by America. So, it is a great opportunity for Taiwan to fill the void left by the Chinese. In 2020, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a memorandum was signed in Washington DC emphasizing language education and international education. This led to the closer cooperation between both states in the linguistic diplomacy. 

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Learn the Language of Diplomacy With the Best Diplomats

Best Diplomats Conference

Language has the power to shape the actions of the states in the world of diplomacy. The importance of effective communication, interpretation, and translation in the practice of diplomacy cannot be overstated. Along with culture, language also stands at the crossroads of international diplomacy. Best Diplomats is an international organization conducting diplomatic conferences worldwide to provide excellent opportunities to youth to develop the diplomatic skills and means to excel in their diplomatic activities. 


The use of language in the most beneficial ways needs to be addressed in today’s time. We are living in a time when attention to good use of language tends to lapse. Media often use dreadful language and words both oral and written there is an existing risk that the diplomats of the future are not going to learn and master even their native language as well as foreign languages including German, Spanish, and English.  This will lead to additional hurdles in the execution of existing treaties and agreements. The unclear language will create disguise and conceal divergencies and gaps under the cover of agreement. Then these divergencies will be interpreted differently by the different parties, at that time people who are proposing solutions to disputes must know and master the concerned language. 

We can seek a solution to the insufficient proficiency in language from IT (Information Technology). An interactive way of teaching or education can help the learner or the student to engage with the language truly and he can attain proficiency and fluency in that language. Ultimately, this will result in an increase in the linguistic culture on the subject of diplomacy. 


What is the most used language in diplomacy in the current times?

Among the all popular diplomatic languages, English is most used as a working or official language at the current time. 

What was the first diplomatic Language? 

The first language used for diplomatic practices was the Akkadian Language which is extinct now.  It served as the international language of the Middle East before Aramaic. The first diplomatic document was written by cuneiform characters on a clay tablet back in 2500 BC. 

Why is language important in diplomacy?

Language gives essence to diplomacy, it is much more than just a means to conduct diplomacy. All communication including negotiation, arbitrations, and reconciliations require effective and diplomatic language which has special jargon and nuances, different than everyday language. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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