Are you planning to visit Spain for the first time? Well if it is the case, you should know that depending on the region you are going, you might hear people talking languages you have never heard before. No worries, not everyone knows that Spanish is not the only language spoken in Spain.
Actually, 4 languages are recognised as official, being Castilian the language used all over Spanish territory and the other 3 languages – Basque, Catalan and Galician – being official only in the places where they are spoken.
So, before you go, we have made it easier for you and here are some information about the 3 regional languages spoken in Spain.
All Spanish languages are Romance languages derived from Latin except Basque, which origins are still being a matter of study. In fact, Basque is a non-Indo-European language and some say that it was widely spoken in the Iberian peninsula before Romans arrived, making Latin the prevailing language in their empire.
Nevertheless, Vascone tribes and families kept this language in the area comprised by the current territories of Navarra and the Basque Country, in northern Spain. The Standard Basque (Euskera Batua) was developed in the late 1960s as many versions of Basque language were spoken (and still being spoken) in Basque territories.
In the northwest of Spain, we can find another language – the Galician. Galician is an evolved version of Galician-Portuguese language, which was spoken in the west of Iberian Peninsula, being the origin of both Galician and Portuguese.
Actually, these two languages are very similar and speakers would easily understand each other. Galician was a language spoken in the countryside, but lately it has spread to the cities and has become the official language in Galicia along with Spanish. Unfortunately, recent researches show a decreasing number of people speaking this language.
Finally yet importantly, we have Catalan, which is claimed to be the most important regional language in Spain. You can find two big branches, Eastern Catalan (spoken in Catalonia) and Western Catalan (spoken in Valencian Community, where it is called Valencian). Moreover, there is another branch spoken in the Balearic Islands.
These branches are very similar among each other, even you can find different words, different verbs and even different pronunciation. The Catalan language is widely spoken in the east of the Iberian Peninsula, from Gerona in the north to Alicante in the south.
All the languages mentioned are protected (or should be protected) by law, taught in educative centres and part of the life of people living in these parts of Spain. In these communities, official documents should be issued in both Spanish and the official language of the region.
They have media in these languages as well, books and movies translated into Catalan, Galician and Basque and many other features that make these languages one of the most valuable treasures of Spanish culture. And that is not all! In Spain there are more languages not as widely spoken as the ones mentioned above like Asturian, Aranese, Aragones, Leonese and a lot varied accents.
Now that you know all the basics information about spain languages… Enjoy your trip!
Authors: Luis Cano Collada and Quentin Mosnier