What languages are spoken in Spain?

What languages are spoken in Spain?

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated August 9, 2022

Before taking online Spanish lessons, a lot of people research whether they should learn Latin American or Spain Spanish. We know the best way to learn Spanish is immersion, so many language students want to know how best to spend their time. The good news for Spanish language learners located in Europe is that Spain is nearby. That means you can learn Spain Spanish and then go on holiday to practice your skills, but don’t be surprised if you hear other languages while you are traveling in Spain. In this article, we tell you what other languages are spoken in Spain.

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We learned before that Spain makes up less than 10% of the world’s Spanish speakers, but did you know that Spain is not a monolingual nation? Though Castilian Spanish is spoken by 72% of the population, there are three other co-official languages in the country: Euskara, Catalan, and Galician. As the first language of many in their respective regions, nearly all people who speak Euskara, Catalan, and Galician are also fluent in Castilian Spanish. At times a source of conflict and at times a source of vibrant multinationalist identity conversations, these languages are important both culturally and politically to the history and future of Spain.

Euskara

Euskara is the language of the Basque Country, an autonomous community on the north coast of Spain. The Basque language has been studied by linguists because shockingly, it is unrelated to other European language families. There is some mystery about its development. Some legends claim it is the language of the mythical lost island of Atlantis. Regardless of myths, we know that of the 600,000 Euskara speakers, 93% live within the borders of Spain while the other 7% live across the border in France. Here are some words in Euskara.

Kaixo = Hello

Ba al dakizu gazteleraz? = Do you speak Spanish?

Bai = Yes

Ez = No

Mesedez = Please

Eskerrik asko = Thank you

Catalan

Catalan is the language of Catalonia, Valencia (there known as the Valencian language), the Balearic Islands (including Majorca), and small populations in France and Sardinia, Italy. It is also the sole language of the small country of Andorra. This region is along the east coast of Spain, so you will not be surprised to see French influence in the vocabulary. About 9 million people speak Catalan worldwide, with half of those learning it as their first language. If you visit Barcelona, you will notice the street signs in Catalan and hear it often in the streets. Here are some basic phrases in Catalan. 

Hola/Bon dia = Hello

Parla espanyol? = Do you speak Spanish?

 = Yes

No = No

Si us plau = Please

Graciès or Merci = Thank you

Galician

Galician is the language of Galicia, another autonomous community in the northwest corner of Spain. It has some similarities, as you might imagine, to Portuguese. There are around four million Galician speakers worldwide, with half of those residing in their home region. Here are some simple vocabulary words in Galician. 

Ola = Hello

Falas español? = Do you speak Spanish?

Si = Yes

Non = No

Por favor = Please

Grazas = Thank you


Aragonese and Asturian are two other minority languages associated with historical regions of Spain, although these are not official nationally-recognized languages. To read more about Spain’s multilingualism, check out Manual of Romance Sociolinguistics, a 2008 book written by researcher Fernando Ramallo where he explores the linguistic hierarchy in Spain and the four resulting tiers: official, co-official, legally protected, and unprotected languages.

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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