IFLA official languages

IFLA currently has seven official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish. The business language of IFLA is English. IFLA members are entitled to express themselves in any of the official languages at conferences, in meetings of professional and governance bodies and in correspondence to IFLA Headquarters (HQ). IFLA may also work in one or more of the official languages, for the purpose of IFLA HQ and/or Regional Offices and Language Centres being able to communicate immediately and without outside assistance both orally and in writing and where IFLA communications are required to be disseminated. IFLA HQ attempts to recruit speakers of other official languages than English as staff members, in order to increase the number of working languages.

Within the limits of its resources IFLA provides in these languages: website, official communications and form letters; abstracts of articles published in IFLA Journal; simultaneous interpretation of selected World Library and Information Congress sessions; and translations of news bulletins and information during Congress. IFLA encourages the translations of congress papers and their deposit in the IFLA Library.


As a global organisation, IFLA aims to bridge cultural differences across the library community and wider environment in which libraries operate by making available in print and electronic formats as many translations into all of its official languages of all relevant documents and publications as possible. Priority is given to policy statements, manifestos, guidelines, publications, and IFLA Journal abstracts. Further documents may be translated in response to expressed demand.

In most cases translations are made by volunteers from the IFLA official languages communities themselves, or are paid for by those communities. IFLA will continue to make available as many translations as possible, within its available resources, and within the understanding that this is only feasible with substantial help of the various language communities.

Hundreds of IFLA documents, guidelines, standards and publications have been translated into official IFLA languages as well as many other languages over the years.

IFLA has agreements regarding translations with the IFLA Language Centres for Russian, Chinese, French (for Africa), and Arabic.

Under the terms of the IFLA / De Gruyter Publishing Agreements for the IFLA Publications Series and the IFLA Series on Bibliographic Control IFLA has the right to give licences for translated editions to other publishers. However, IFLA must inform De Gruyter well in advance and must consult with them to see if they can make a comparable offer. If De Gruyter declines then IFLA may publish elsewhere.

IFLA Professional Reports are published in house by IFLA. An agreement should be made with IFLA for any proposed translation of a Professional Report.

In general, all translations should:

  • attribute the name and contact details of the translator in the document;
  • indicate whether the translation has been independently certified, and include this information in the document
  • include a standard disclaimer to the document:
    • “The text of this document has been translated into [language] and differences from the original text may occur. This translation is provided for reference purposes only”.

Words to the effect of the standard disclaimer are included in the general disclaimer on the IFLA websites.

Endorsed by the IFLA Governing Board, April 2014