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What Language Do They Speak in Spain?

What Language Do They Speak in Spain

If you’re planning a trip to Spain, or simply curious about the linguistic landscape of the country, you’re in the right place! Spain, with its rich history and diverse regions, has a tapestry of languages that color its national identity. Let’s delve deep into understanding the languages spoken in Spain.

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageSpanish (Castilian)
Regional LanguagesCatalan, Galician, Basque, and Aranese
Most SpokenSpanish, with over 90% speakers nationwide
Language OriginIberian Peninsula
Foreign LanguagesEnglish, French, German among most learned

Spanish (Castilian) – The Official Language

The official and most widely spoken language in Spain is Spanish, often referred to as Castilian (Castellano in Spanish). Originating from the Iberian Peninsula, it’s not only spoken in Spain but is also the second most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese.

Evolution of Spanish

The Spanish language has seen an evolutionary journey:

  • Iberian and Celtic origins
  • Influences from Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians
  • Roman Latin infusion after the Roman conquest
  • Arabic influence during the Moorish occupation

Spanish Dialects:

Even within Spanish, there are several regional dialects. The most notable ones are:

  1. Andalusian – Primarily in the southern parts like Andalusia
  2. Canarian – Spoken in the Canary Islands
  3. Murcian – From the Murcia region
  4. Extremaduran – In the western region of Extremadura

However, these dialects are generally mutually intelligible, and a speaker of one can typically understand the others.

Regional Languages: More than Just Spanish

Spain is not a monolithic linguistic entity. Several regions have their distinct languages that coexist with Castilian.

Basque CountryBasque
Val d’AranAranese

1. Catalan:

Primarily spoken in Catalonia, Valencia (as Valencian), and the Balearic Islands. It’s closer to Provençal (a dialect of Occitan) than to Spanish.

2. Galician:

Galician, or Galego, is the official language of Galicia. It’s closely related to Portuguese and originated from the medieval language known as Galician-Portuguese.

3. Basque:

Euskara, or Basque, is unique. It’s spoken in the Basque Country and some parts of Navarre. Unlike other languages in Spain, Basque is non-Indo-European, making its origins a mystery.

4. Aranese:

Aranese is spoken in Val d’Aran, in Catalonia. It’s a variety of Gascon, which is a sub-type of the Occitan language spoken in southern France.

Bilingual Regions and Education

Many regions in Spain are officially bilingual. In these regions, children often learn both the regional language and Castilian in school. For instance:

  • In Catalonia, education is primarily in Catalan.
  • In Galicia, students are taught in Galician.
  • In the Basque Country, Basque and Spanish are both used.

The Impact of Globalization: Foreign Languages

With globalization, foreign languages are becoming increasingly important. English, in particular, is widely taught in schools, and many Spaniards have at least a basic grasp of it. Other popular languages include:

  • English – Due to tourism and global business connections.
  • French – Geographical proximity and historical ties.
  • German – Especially popular in the tourism sector.


Spain is a linguistically diverse nation. While Spanish dominates, the regional languages play a crucial role in shaping the country’s identity. Whether you’re a traveler, a linguist, or just someone fascinated by cultures, understanding the languages of Spain offers a deeper insight into its rich tapestry of history and culture. So, the next time someone asks, “What language do they speak in Spain?” you can impress them with your knowledge!