Navigating together: the success of the United Nations Language Framework

The United Nations Language Framework (UNLF) has been a remarkable adventure for all those on board and has enabled language teachers to sail valiantly towards new horizons. They have worked tirelessly to define terms of reference with which to learn and assess the six official languages of the Organization: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Their perseverance guided them to a safe port, from which they have now officially set sail further to the Organization adopting the Framework, as published in the Secretary-General's Bulletin ST/SGB/2023/2 on 28 April. This is a truly collective and shared success. This voyage has been one of teamwork, leading to shared success.

Staying on course for multilingualism

This ambitious project, which received the Secretary General's Award in the Multilingualism category in 2018, brought teams together around common goals: creating linguistic terms of reference specific to the Organization; developing new curricula; and aligning local programmes to them. Over fifty teachers from the language programmes in Geneva and New York participated in this expedition with determination. Together, over the past six years, they have explored new horizons armed with new maps.

Despite the storms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to online teaching, the project has never strayed off course - quite the contrary! Learners on the language courses in Geneva are more satisfied than ever, which confirms the positive impact of the project on our programme.

Practical tools and applications

Several tools based on our new compass, the UNLF, have also been developed. In 2021, the pilot exams for UN level I and UN level II demonstrated one of the concrete applications of the Framework. On this occasion, many volunteers obtained their first UN level certificate.

A self-paced online training course on the UNLF was also created in 2022. It provides a better understanding of the Framework and highlights the benefits of using it in the UN context. To find out more, click HERE!

In addition, thanks to the support of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), we have developed oral and written samples to illustrate the language skills of a French speaker at each UN level. If you have not seen them yet, click HERE!

But that is not all! Other exciting projects are in the pipeline for 2023. For example, new exams for UN Level I in Arabic, Chinese, French and Russian, which will be available to everyone in October. Samples in the other official languages should also be available in the coming years.


Promoting language skills

The officialization of the UNLF represents a crucial step for our Organization, reinforcing its commitment to multilingualism and inclusion. It allows every speaker to demonstrate their language skills, whatever their level, and encourages everyone to engage in a continuous, coherent and UN-specific learning process.

The outcome of this work and future projects will have a considerable impact on the Organization, fostering better communication between its members and strengthening its ability to achieve its objectives in a more global way. So, after this long voyage, let us raise our glasses to a multilingual future and to the recognition of the importance of linguistic diversity!


The full-time staff of the UN Geneva Language Training Programme.

The team also includes 27 part-time teachers who were not present for the photo.