How Many Languages Are Spoken in Spain?
“Bon dia! Egun on! Bo día!” are all acceptable forms of greeting in Spain; except for the fact that they derive from different languages that can be heard and seen in their respective homelands.
But if you speak fluent castellano, you are well-equipped with the knowledge to engage in conversation with Spaniards in any part of the peninsula. So, what are the main languages spoken in Spain, and who communicates in these mostly Latin-derived languages?
How many languages do Spaniards speak?
The official language of Spain is Spanish (or rather Castilian or castellano) and is understood everywhere in the country. More often than not, the people of Spain refer to their language as castellano rather than español because the latter can be any of the other languages spoken in the country.
Castellano has deviated into other languages according to the cultural diversity of Spain, and these regions are an important part of the Spanish cultural patrimony.
How many languages are spoken in Spain?
As a general rule, the peninsula is home to five different languages: Aranese, Basque, Catalan, Galician and Castilian. This does not however mean that all Spaniards speak these languages; Spain is politically divided into different regions and these languages are official and unofficial in Spanish autonomous communities.
To answer the question of how many languages are spoken in Spain, here is an overview of the most widely spoken languages in descendant order:
This is the official language of Spain, with over 45 million speakers scattered across the country. The word “Castilian” is sometimes used to denote the standard form of Spanish used in Spain, as opposed to the variety of Spanish used in Latin America. Castilian can therefore be heard in all regions of Spain.
This is the official language of the northeastern region of Catalonia and Andorra. About 4,6 million people speak Catalan, including adjoining areas in France and the Valencian Community, where it is typically referred to as Valencian. Similarly to its parent language, Catalan is a Romance language, and it has inherited roughly 85% of its lexical set.
This is the official language of the region of Galicia, which lies in the northwest corner of Spain. It is also a Romance language, but differs from other Spanish languages in that it is mutually intelligible with Portuguese, because Galicia and Portugal were united during medieval times. Galician is the mother tongue of 2.6 million people in the autonomous community of Galicia.
This is the official language of the Basque Country, which is the area located on the northern border of Spain. It is sometimes referred to as Euskara and is the only language in Spain that does not have any ties with Romance languages. In fact, Euskara has no generic relation to any other language and is one of the oldest in Europe, even more ancient than Latin. Basque is estimated to be the mother tongue of around 900,000 people.
It is spoken in the Val d’Aran region in the northeast of Spain and derives from the Gascon dialect of Occitan. Aranese has a co-official status with Spanish and Catalan in the region, and can be understood by 90% of the inhabitants and spoken by 65% of them.
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The Spanish language has a rich heritage that dates back thousands of years, when several previously independent kingdoms were all merged into the Kingdom of Spain.
It has also been influenced by neighboring Romance languages, as well as Arabic during the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The multidimensional culture of Spain is truly reflected by the linguistic diversity that the country celebrates.
The 7 Major Languages Spoken in Spain (It’s Not Just Spanish)
Believe it or not, Spanish isn’t the first language of at least several million Spaniards.
Thankfully, most Spaniards do speak Spanish, so knowing the language will serve you well around the country.
But why not find out about what else is out there?
Broadening your knowledge of Spain’s languages is a great way to expand not only your linguistic knowledge, but also your knowledge of Spanish culture.
This guide will introduce you to seven languages spoken in Spain, along with their history and culture.
- 1. Spanish: The Official Language of Spain
- 2. Catalan: The Language of Gaudí and Dalí
- 3. Galician: No, It’s Not Portuguese!
- 4. Basque: Spain’s Most Mysterious Language
- 5. Occitan: Catalan’s Endangered Cousin
- 6. Asturian: Unofficial but Unforgotten
- 7. Arabic: A Language of Spain’s Past and Present
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1. Spanish: The Official Language of Spain
Number of Speakers: 45 million
Region: All regions of Spain
The Spanish language is indigenous to Spain’s central region, known as Castilla (Castile). Unlike Spain’s other languages, Spanish is spoken across the entire country.
It’s often called “Castilian” or even “Castilian Spanish” in English. These terms refer exclusively to the dialects of Spanish spoken in Spain. However, the equivalent Spanish-language terms—el castellano (Castilian) and el español (Spanish)—can be used to refer to all dialects of the language.
Nowadays, Castilian Spanish has some unique features that aren’t seen in Latin American dialects. The two most notable are the vosotros form—an informal equivalent to ustedes—and the ceceo, a phenomenon in which the letters c and z are pronounced like th (prompting other Spanish speakers to quip that all Spaniards have lisps).
2. Catalan: The Language of Gaudí and Dalí
Number of Speakers: 9 million
Region: Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands in Spain
Though often solely associated with Barcelona, el catalán (Catalan) is spoken in several areas of Spain and southern Europe. Major historical figures who spoke Catalan include artists Gaudí and Dalí.
Catalan is also the sole official language of the tiny country of Andorra and is spoken in small parts of southern France and the Italian city of Alghero.
If you already speak Spanish, learning Catalan will be a walk in the park. The two languages are very closely related, to the point where certain words are identical in both. For example, “la tortuga canta” (the turtle sings) is a valid phrase in both Spanish and Catalan, although you probably won’t ever need to talk about a singing turtle.
Though it suffered from decades of repression under the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, today the Catalan language is once again thriving. It’s taught in schools, can be heard on TV and is currently playing a key role in Catalonia’s independence debate.
Those hoping to learn some Catalan can check out Memrise’s Catalan courses or even attempt Duolingo’s Catalan course in Spanish or English.
Here’s a list of basic vocabulary in Catalan:
Hola — Hello
Adéu — Goodbye
Com estàs? — How are you?
Gràcies — Thank you
Català — Catalan
3. Galician: No, It’s Not Portuguese!
Number of Speakers: 2. 4 million
Known in Spanish as el gallego, Galician is spoken in the autonomous community of Galicia, the part of Spain located directly north of Portugal.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the language is very closely related to Portuguese and fairly similar to Spanish by association. In fact, Galician and Portuguese are so close that a movement known as “reintegrationism” has emerged to try to officially unite the two.
Among many other important sites, Galicia is home to Santiago de Compostela, known as the end destination of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James). Most residents of the city are bilingual, so if your Galician isn’t up to scratch, you’ll always have Spanish to fall back on.
If you want to try learning Galician, try out this Galician course on Memrise. Alternatively, here’s a sampler vocabulary list:
Ola — Hello
Como estás? — How are you?
Adeus — Goodbye
Grazas — Thank you
Galego — Galician
Basque: Spain’s Most Mysterious Language
Number of Speakers: 700,000
Region: Basque Country in Northern Spain
Sometimes known as el vasco, Basque is spoken in el euskadi (the Basque Country), a region that encompasses parts of both northern Spain and southern France.
Interestingly enough, Basque is a rare example of a “language isolate,” meaning it isn’t known to be related to any other language. But even though it isn’t related to Spanish, Basque has contributed a large number of Spanish loanwords over the years, including izquierdo/a (left) and cachorro (puppy).
Basque nationalism is a powerful force in the Basque Country. Many locals will look favorably on those willing to take on one of the world’s most difficult languages.
If you’re curious about learning Basque, Ikasten, a website dedicated to Basque instruction, is a good place to start. Here’s a sample vocabulary list:
Kaixo — Hello
Zer moduz? — How are you?
Agur — Goodbye
Eskerrik asko — Thank you
Euskara — Basque
5. Occitan: Catalan’s Endangered Cousin
Number of Speakers: Less than 3,000
Region: Catalonia, especially Val d’Aran
If you know Catalan, then there’s another official language of Spain that you likely already understand—even though you might never have heard of it before!
Occitan is an endangered language that’s spoken in France as well as parts of Spain and Italy. Aranese is the dialect of it that’s mainly in Spain, and it’s very similar to Catalan, to the point that many linguists argue that they’re the same language.
Although Aranese is only spoken by less than 3,000 people in Spain, it’s the official language of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona and Lleida. Most Aranese speakers are in Val d’Aran, which is a picturesque valley that’s right in the Pyrenees Mountains.
Aranese might be endangered, but it’s doing better than many other Occitan dialects because nearly half of the people in Val D’Aran are fluent in the language! It’s taught in school, and it’s used often in everyday life.
To learn more about Occitan, check out this grammar guide. Here are some example vocabulary words in Aranese:
Adiu — Hello or goodbye (to one person)
Adishatz — Hello or goodbye (to several people)
Com vas? — How are you?
Merci — Thank you
Aranés — Aranese
6. Asturian: Unofficial but Unforgotten
Number of Speakers: 350,000
Spoken in Spain’s Asturias directly east of Galicia, el asturiano (Asturian) is a Romance language that shares many similarities with Spanish.
Sadly, Asturian today is an endangered language with just 110,000 native speakers remaining. If you add in people who speak it as a second language, the total would be around 350,000.
Though it does have some protections, Asturian isn’t an official language of Spain. However, its speakers have refused to allow it to fade into oblivion, and large demonstrations—including one in April 2018 that drew thousands of protesters—occasionally occur in support of finally giving Asturian official status.
If you’d like to help keep this wonderful language alive, Memrise has an Asturian course for beginners. Here are some essential words in Asturian:
Hola — Hello
¿Cómo tas? — How are you?
Hasta dempués — Goodbye
Gracies — Thank you
Asturies — Asturias
7. Arabic: A Language of Spain’s Past and Present
Number of Speakers: 350,000
Believe it or not, Arabic was a dominant language of the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years.
In the eighth century, Islamic conquerors gained control of most of Spain and Portugal. Al-Ándalus (Al-Andalus), as the territory became known, was at its peak one of the wealthiest regions of the world.
Though it’s been over 500 years since the end of al-Andalus, the period has left a significant effect on the Spanish language, as is reflected in loanwords like almohada (pillow) and naranja (orange).
Today, Arabic is once again a major language of Spain. It’s widely spoken among residents of Ceuta—which, along with Melilla, is one of two Spanish exclaves in North Africa—and increasingly by Spain’s population of Moroccan immigrants.
For more on Arabic, FluentU has an Arabic blog to help you learn the language. There’s also this list of basic words and phrases:
السلام عليكم (As-salām ‘alaykum) — Hello
كيف حالك (Kayfa hālak) — How are you? (to a male)
كيف حالكِ (Kayfa hālik) — How are you? (to a female)
مع السلامة (Ma’a as-salāmah) — Goodbye
شكرا (Shukran) — Thank you
العربية — Al-’arabiyyah — Arabic
Though Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque, Occitan, Asturian and Arabic are among the most prominent of Spain’s languages, there are so many more you can choose from!
Some of these, such as Extremaduran and Aragonese, are indigenous to Spain; while others, such as Romanian and Mandarin Chinese, have been brought by recent immigrants.
While Spain’s linguistic diversity may seem overwhelming, even a few words can go a long way in forging relationships with the local people.
But rest assured: Spanish is spoken all across the country and your efforts to communicate will be warmly received by Spaniards. And a resource like the FluentU language program can boost those communication skills, with the help of its diverse Spanish media clips and interactive captions.
Ultimately, it’s important to see these other languages for what they are: a way to dive deeper into Spain’s fascinating culture.
This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you
can take anywhere.
Click here to get a copy. (Download)
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Cervantes Institute (INSTITUTO CERVANTES)
“CERVANTES ESCUELA INTERNACIONAL HA OBTENIDO La Acreditación Del Instituto Cervantes, Lo Que Significa Que Comple Concidas Por El Sistema de Acreditacian versesside. úNICA Acreditación en El ámbito Internacional Centraada Exclusivamente En La Enspañol Como Lengua Extranje .
Cervantes International School is a founding member of the Association of Schools “Spanish in Andalusia” (Asociación de Escuelas “Español en Andalucía) , whose main goal is to improve and guarantee the quality of teaching in the schools that belong to the association.
The EEA represents the schools that form part of it in front of the Local, Autonomous and National Institutions. Thus, our Association maintains close ties with the Council of Andalusia, as well as with other institutions and organizations. At the same time, the EEA cooperates with the Chambers of Commerce of the various capitals of Andalusia, which make it easier for the students of the EEA centers to access the official examinations related to trade.
Cervantes International School is also the main member of the Spanish Federation of Spanish Language Schools (Federación Española de Escuelas de Español).
FEDELE distributes the Associations of Spanish Language Schools to the various Spanish Autonomies. Its main purpose is to represent the Schools before the Spanish Government and to protect the professional interests of its members.
Cervantes International School is also a member of ELITE, a supranational federation of over 300 language schools in the European Union.
More than three hundred schools make up the ELITE Federation through their National Associations:
Reino Unido: ARELS – Association of Recognized English Language Services
Italia: ASILS – Associazione Scuole di Italiano come Lingua Seconda
Francia: SOUFFLE – Groupement professionnel des organismes d’enseignement du français langue étrangère
España: FEDELE – Federación Nacional de Escuelas de Español
Portugal: AEPLE – Associação de Escolas Privadas de Português Lingua Estrangeira
Cervantes International School is a member of the Association of Spanish Language Centers in Malaga in cooperation with the Department of Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce of Malaga.
Malaga Chamber of Commerce (CÁMARA DE COMERCIO DE MÁLAGA)
Cervantes International School has extensive connections with the Chamber of Commerce of Malaga. The student will be able to study at the International School of Cervantes and pass an exam in a special course of Spanish for business communication and receive a certificate from the Chamber of Commerce.
Cervantes International School is accredited by a Swedish organization and our students can receive a scholarship to study at Cervantes International School.
Cervantes International School is known as “Bildungsurlaub” by the Federal Regulations of Hamburg. Students must stay a minimum of 2 weeks and choose our “Super Intensive Spanish”. For more information: www.weiterbildung-hamburg.de
Tourist information about Malagn – Guide in Malaga Spain
A must see…
Visitors to the city should take a walk through the center and soak up the atmosphere of the former Mediterranean port. The Municipality of Malaga has recently organized several works to renovate the city center while maintaining its traditional unspoilt character. The city’s commercial center is Larios Street, from where a labyrinth of narrow streets radiate out, where fashion shops alternate with modern bars and charming squares.
View of a typical bar in Larios street
In addition to being a commercial city, Malaga also has a very rich heritage of historical monuments, one of the oldest Roman amphitheaters built in the second century BC. It was opened by accident during the second half of the century, moved due to building works.
View of the Roman Theater of Malaga
Between the mountains and the Roman amphitheater, you can see the Moorish palace – a fortress known as the Alcazaba. The Arab fortress was built on the ruins of Roman ruins in the first half of the ninth century by Caliph Abd er Rahman I to defend against pirate attacks.
Entering the Christian era, one of the city’s most important buildings is the 16th-century Renaissance palace known as the Palacio de Bellavista, of typical Andalusian style, with roofs decorated in the Mudéjar style. Currently, this building is the Picasso Museum.
Built in the seventeenth century, the hotel “Mesón de la Victoria”, one of the finest of its time, is now a folklore museum. Its two floors surround a small courtyard with a small spring in the center, typical of the Andalusian style.
The Cathedral of Malaga is popularly known as “La manquita” (meaning little señora), slightly disarmed due to the second tower, which was not completed. Work was halted by royal decree when only half of the tower was completed. The money that was supposed to be used for the construction was actually used for the victims of the terrible earthquake in the USA. The construction of the cathedral continued for almost two centuries – from the second half of the sixteenth century to the last third of the eighteenth century. Because of this, there is an interesting combination of architectural styles, from the Gothic at the bottom of the structure and the doors of the sanctuary, to the Renaissance and at the end of the baroque decoration of the main wall.