“MULTILINGUAL COUNTRIES” COLUMN. SEASON 1 – 4 “SPAIN”

Here we are again with a new episode of our “Multilingual countries” column. Last episode we talked about our French cousins, and today we’ll travel towards the Atlantic Ocean, stopping for a moment in the Iberian peninsula. So today we’ll be discussing the languages spoken in Spain.

I must begin with a clarification: just like in Italy, the official language of the Spanish state is, in fact, Spanish (aka Castilian). However, the government authorities include and officially use four, so-called co-official languages in as many autonomous communities.

LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN SPAIN

The co-official languages governed by Spanish law are Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranese.

For the record, there are also three other languages which are unofficial, but whose use is regulated by law or which are recognised within the Statutes of Autonomy.

Let’s start with these, more specifically Aragonese, Leonese and Asturian.

ARAGONESE

Spoken in the northern part of the Autonomous Community of Aragon, estimates indicate that this language is currently spoken by about 10,000 people.

It has no institutional relevance, although it is officially recognised within the Statute of Autonomy of Aragon.

ASTURIAN

Asturian is not recognised by the Spanish government either, but the regional Asturian government protects this language and regulates its use through a law included in its Statute of Autonomy.

From a linguistic point of view, this is regulated by the Academy of the Asturian Language (Academia de la Llingua Asturiana).

LEONESE

We can say the same for the Leonese dialect. It is spoken in the Autonomous Community of Castile and León.

This dialect is used institutionally by the municipality of León, which uses Leonese for its communications. In addition, the Councillors for Education, New Technologies and Leonese Culture effectively take a bilingual approach, drafting official documents and disseminating information in both Spanish and Leonese.

THE CO-OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

As I mentioned before, there are four co-official languages in Spain.

CATALAN AND ARANESE

While visiting the Costa Brava in the Catalan Autonomous Community, many will have noticed the very frequent use of this language.

Alongside Spanish, Catalan should be considered a full-fledged official language. Its use is also promoted by the teaching within its schools, and estimates indicate the language is spoken by about 10 million people.

There are many variations of Catalan which have arisen from as many historical and political events. An example? A variant of this language is spoken in Alghero, Sardinia, where it has been influenced by Sardinian dialect and Italian.

Aranese is instead spoken in Val d’Aran, also in Catalan, where it is the official language together with Spanish (Castilian) and Catalan. For years it was considered an endangered language, but has undergone a turnaround in recent decades, also thanks to its inclusion as a study subject in schools since 1984.

BASQUE

Originally from the Basque Country, this language is spoken by more than 700,000 people. It’s defined as an “isolated language”, i.e., a language lacking any connections with other languages. That’s why it’s often difficult to understand and recognise its terms which are so foreign to us, given its difference from the rest of the European spoken languages.

To give you an idea, here’s a small example of an informal conversation: “– Kaixo Zer moduz (zaude)? – Ondo, eta zu? – Ni ere bai”. In English: “– Hi, how are you? – Good, and you? – Good“.

GALICIAN

This co-official language is spoken by about three million people in the Galician Autonomous Community.

Galician Literature Day is celebrated every 17 March, highlighting and promoting the use and international recognition of the language.

See you next episode and… ¡Hasta luego!

Stefano Gaffuri

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider