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Bienvenido or Benvingut? - The Different Languages of Spain!

If you’re living in Spain then you will know that there are many different regions in the country - each with their own cultures, traditions and even languages. But if you were wondering what these languages are and how they might differ to the Spanish you know, then read on for a quick crash course.


Castellano


¡Hola! The Spanish language is a broad one - as it is spoken in many ways across many different countries. The Spanish spoken in Mainland Spain is referred to as Castellano (or Castilian in English) and is the official language here. There are 45 million speakers across the country and it is the first language of over 72% of the population.


Catalán and Valencian


Catalan is the second-most spoken language in Spain and is used across Catalonia, Valencia, Aragon and Murcia. In Valencia a variant of this language is spoken, called Valenciano (or Valencian) - although there is debate over whether or not it should be classified as its own language. As a whole, there are 4.6 million Catalan speakers and 95% of people in Catalonia can understand it, making it a huge part of their regional identity.


Like Spanish, Catalan is a romance language and has inherited 85% of its lexical set from Castellano - although it is not as phonetic as its parent language. Several words are shared between the two - such as hola, sí and casa - but it is very much a different dialect with its own grammatical rules, vocabulary and pronunciation.


Gallego


Up in the northwest region of Galicia we have Gallego (or Galician in English) - the mother tongue of 2.6 million people. It is another romance language but is mutually intelligible with Portuguese - as these two areas were united in medieval times. It is often said to sound like portugeuse in a Spanish accent, and there are some key differences between this language and Castellano. For example, instead of the Spanish ‘the’ (el, la, los or las), the galician language uses o, a, os or as.


El Vasco


In contrast to the others, vasco (also known as Euskara, or Basque in English) is the only language in Spain that has no links to a romance language. In fact, it is a mysterious dialect with no link to any other languages at all. It is one of the oldest tongues in Europe and is spoken by over 200,000 in the Basque Country. Like Catalan, it plays a huge role in the identity and autonomy of its region.


Learn some new phrases!


All of these languages have a co-official status in Spain and have rich historical backgrounds. They were especially challenged under Franco’s dictatorship from 1936-1975, where they were repressed and banned in public spaces. However, they survived this period and once democracy was restored they were brought back into the public sphere. They all help to shape each regional identity, and play a particularly important role in the independence movements of Catalonia and the Basque Country.


So there you go! If you’re travelling throughout Spain and are struggling to understand a single word you hear, then they are probably speaking one of these fascinating regional languages!



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