5 Main Languages Spoken in Spain: Official Language + Other Dialects

In Catalonia, drop a casual “Un cafè, si us plau” and watch locals light up with pride that you’re attempting to speak their language. Who knows, you might score some insider tips on the best hangouts.

Over in the Basque Country, charm the proud residents with a cheerful “Kaixo!

And when bellying up to a bar in Galicia, ordering “un viño da casa” in their Portuguese-tinged dialect is a sure way to turn new friends into lifelong compadres.

Our topic today is: languages spoken in Spain: how many are there, how many people speak them, what are their characteristics? Olly Richards made a summary video on this topic:

Let’s find out together!

How many languages are spoken in Spain overall?

Spain is a diverse country when it comes to languages spoken in Spain.

While Castilian (AKA Spanish) is the official language of Spain, the country is home to several regional languages and dialects of Spanish.

In total, there are five official languages spoken within Spain:

  1. Castilian Spanish
  2. Catalan
  3. Galician
  4. Basque
  5. Aranes.

But we have to mention that the linguistic diversity doesn’t stop there. In addition to these five official languages spoken in Spain, there are many other minority languages in Spain spoken by smaller communities.

Languages and dialects like Asturian, Leonese, and Extremaduran are also part of this area.

1. Castilian – official language

Castilian, also known as Spanish, is the official language of the Kingdom of Spain and the language that is spoken by the majority of the Spanish population.

It is a romance language that comes from Vulgar Latin and shares similarities with other Iberian Romance languages like Portuguese and Catalan.

According to the Spanish Statistical Office (INE – Instituto Nacional de Estadística), and their latest publication on language use, 96% of people know and use Spanish in Spain.

It is the most widely spoken language in the country: it’s the primary language used in government, education, media and public life.

Although Castilian Spanish is the official language throughout the country, there are other varieties of Spanish spoken in different regions – not only dialects, but completely different languages.

Let’s explore these, too!

2. Catalan – spoken in Catalonia, official language of Andorra

Catalan is a romance language spoken in the autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia (though there it’s called Valencian). It is one of the co-official languages in these areas, along with Spanish, and it is the official language of Andorra.

According to a study from 2021, it’s spoken by roughly 10 million people around the world.

Catalan has a history dating back to the 9th century.

During the Franco regime (1939-1975), the use of Catalan was suppressed and heavily restricted. After the transition to democracy, there was a concerted effort to revive and promote the language. Today, Catalan isn’t just spoken, but it’s taught in schools, and used in various spheres of public life in the regions where it holds (co-)official status.

The status of the language has been a source of ongoing political and cultural debates. Some were advocating for greater autonomy for both the language and Catalonia, in some cases, even independence.

The main differences between Castilian Spanish vs Catalan:

  • Catalan uses the definite article before personal names (e.g., “La Maria”) which Castilian does not.
  • Catalan vocabulary differs (e.g., “pa” for bread vs “pan” in Castilian).

Castilian Spanish vs Catalan

Castilian SpanishCatalanEnglish
GraciasGràciesThank you
ComerMenjarTo eat

3. Galician – regional language of Galicia

Galician is spoken in the northwestern region of Galicia. It is closely related to Portuguese and shares many similarities with the language spoken in northern Portugal. (If you’re interested, you can read about Portuguese vs Spanish on the website.)

According to Britannica, around 4 million people in Spain speak Galician as their native language. Galician has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages when it was the language of the Kingdom of Galicia.

Just like Catalan, Galician has faced periods of suppression and marginalization, particularly during the Franco regime: its use was discouraged and even prohibited in certain contexts. However, since the transition to democracy, there has been a revitalization of the language, and it now holds official status in the Autonomous Community of Galicia.

In addition to its use in everyday life, galician is also an important part of the cultural heritage of the region, being widely used in literature, music, and other forms of artistic expression.

The main differences between Castilian Spanish vs Galician:

  • Galician uses nasal vowels like “ã” and “õ” which don’t exist in Castilian (e.g., “mañán” for morning).
  • Word endings differ (e.g., Galician “rapaz” vs Castilian “muchacho” for boy).
  • Vocabulary has Portuguese influence (e.g., Galician “xiada” vs Castilian “escarcha” for frost).

Castilian Spanish vs Galician

Castilian SpanishGalicianEnglish
GraciasGrazasThank you
ComerComerTo eat

4. Basque – Basque country and Navarra

Basque, or Euskara, is a language spoken in the Basque Country in Northern Spain and parts of southwestern France. It is a language isolate, meaning it is not related to any other known language family today.

The Basque Tribune states .)that approximately 806,000 people speak Basque, mainly in the Basque Autonomous Community and the northern part of Navarra.

Basque is an important part of the cultural heritage of the mentioned region: it’s used in literature, music, and traditional festivities.

The main differences between Castilian Spanish vs Basque:

  • Basque is a language isolate
  • Basque grammar structure is vastly different (e.g., subject-object-verb vs subject-verb-object).
  • Vocabulary is distinct (e.g., Basque “etxe” vs Castilian “casa” for house).

Castilian Spanish vs Basque

Castilian SpanishBasqueEnglish
GraciasEskerrik askoThank you
ComerJanTo eat

5. Aranese – an Occitan dialect

Aranese is an Occitan dialect spoken in the Val d’Aran region of northwestern Catalonia, Spain.

It’s one of the few remaining dialects of the Occitan language still spoken today.

Aranese has around 5,000 native speakers and holds co-official language status alongside Catalan and Spanish in the Val d’Aran.

Aranese developed from the Gascon variety of the Occitan language brought in by migrants from southern France centuries ago.

El País wrote, that in 2010, Aranese was made as the third official language of the Parliament of Catalonia.

The main differences between Castilian Spanish vs Aranese:

  • Aranese uses Occitan vocabulary derived from the Gascon dialect (e.g. “arriu” for hello vs “hola“).
  • Verb conjugations differ, as Aranese follows Occitan grammar rules (e.g. “canti” for “I sing” vs “canto“).
  • Aranese has nasal vowel sounds like “an” and “en” that don’t exist in Castilian

Castilian Spanish vs Aranese (Occitan dialect):

Castilian SpanishAraneseEnglish
GraciasGràciesThank you
ComerManjarTo eat

6. Learn the languages spoken in Spain with Conversation Based Chunking

Thanks to the revolutionary Conversation Based Chunking method, mastering these languages is a cakewalk – no dusty textbooks or boring grammar drills are required.

The secret?

Immersing yourself in real, unscripted conversation right from the start. Imagine going to a tapas bar in Seville and casually dropping some Castilian slang. Or strolling Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and talking Catalan.

The beauty of Conversation Based Chunking is absorbing new vocabulary in lexical chunks – just like native speakers do it. Don’t memorize individual words but listen to full chunks, common phrases and natural building blocks used by locals.

What are you waiting for?

Sign up now, and get your first Conversation Based Chunking Pack!

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