Spain is very rich and diverse in languages: catalan, galician and basque are official languages in those region but spanish is official in the whole country
The 1978 Spanish Constitution recognizes the linguistic diversity in Spain in Article 3.3 where it states: “The richness of the linguistic varieties in Spain is a cultural heritage that will receive special respect and protection”. The Francoist regime tried to impose a unifying language policy by initially prohibiting and later hindering the use of all languages other than Spanish in Spain. As a result, speakers of these regional languages were forced to use them behind closed doors, in the safety of their own home and among close friends; impeding the language’s effectiveness to transmit culture.
The languages survived the situation thanks to the tenacity of some private institutions that continued studying and promoting their use; with special focus paid to preserving the family tradition of speaking the local language.
Officially, several Autonomous Communities in Spain have legal statutes providing protection to a number of different languages in Spain:
- The Principality of Asturias (Autonomous Community since 1981) Statute states: “The Bable (an Asturian dialect) language will be protected. Its use will be promoted by the media and educational institutions, with respect for the local variations and voluntary will to learn.” Although Bable is not an official language, it is protected by the Autonomous Community of Asturias. It is important to note that the language is not spoken only in Asturias but also in the regions of Leon and Zamora, reaching as far as Miranda do Douro in Portugal.
- The Statute of the Autonomous Community of Aragon, approved in 1982, states that: “The linguistic variations of Aragon will be protected and are considered elements of the region’s cultural and historic heritage.” This became legal with the Aragon Language Act of 2009 which refers to Aragonese and Catalan as “original and historic native languages” of the Aragon, although it does not declare them as official languages.
- The Article 7.1 of the Statue of Valencia Autonomous Community (which includes the provinces of Alicante, Castellon and Valencia) reads: “The two official languages are Valencian and Castilian; every person has the right to know and use them.” A linguistic conflict exists between the Valencian and Catalan languages because those from Valencia insist that their language is a unique language while Catalan people advocate that the Valencian language is simply a regional dialect of Catalan. In any regard, in Valencia this topic is still a delicate issue.
- Other interesting linguistic cases exist in Spain such as that of Aranese, a variety of the Occitan language spoken in the Northwest of Lleida. It has been recognized as an official language since 2006 by the Catalan Statute.
In addition to the linguistic variations in Spain that enrich the country it is interesting to note certain dialects of Castilian that have developed their own unique features. This is most obvious in different parts of Andalusia. In Western Andalusia the language spoken shares many characteristics with Latin American Spanish. This is due to the fact that the majority of the Spanish settlers to the New World were from this region. Another interesting case is found in the Canary Islands where the linguistic influence of the Spanish from western Andalusia, Portuguese and English is evident. This mixture of influences reflects the Canary Island’s geographical position as a common historical stopping spot during overseas travel between America and Europe.
Then there is the curious case of the Castúo language spoken in parts of Extremadura. The language features influences from both the Leonese and the Riojan dialects which reflects the region’s location with Aragon influence from the east, Basque influence from the north and Leon from the west.
The linguistic situation in Spain, as detailed in this article, is very rich and diverse. However, it is important to note that, despite all of these variations, Castilian is still the most commonly used and the unifying language of the whole Spanish territory.