Languages of Spain: Galician


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Galician (galego) is an Indo-European language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch. It is spoken by around 2.4 million people (as censed in 2012) mainly in Galicia, an Spanish autonomous community located in the north west of Spain.

The Galician language is also spoken in some neighbouring borders with Galicia, like in Asturias and Castile and Leon. It’s spoken as well by Galician migrant communities in the rest of Spain, South America, the USA or Switzerland.

Modern Galician belongs to the West Iberian languages group, a family of Romance languages that include the Portuguese language, which developed from Vulgar Latin and evolved into what modern scholars have called Galician-Portuguse. Dialectal divergences can be noticeable between the northern and southern forms of Galician-Portuguese in the 13th century writings. However, the two dialects were similar enough to maintain a high level of cultural unity until the middle of the 14th century turning out in the produce of the Galician-Portuguese lyrics (trobadorismo) in the Middle Ages. The divergence has continued until nowadays, bringing out the modern languages of Galician and Portugusese.

shutterstock galician bagpipeGalician emerged as a standardised literary language during the 19th century when there was a revival (Rexurdimento) in the language and culture of Galicia.

During the 20th century, the organisation As Irmandades da Fala (Brotherhoods of the Language) was established to defend, promote and dignify the Galician language. During the Dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975) it was prohibited to speak or teach Galician at all.

It was not until 1978 that Galician was recognised as an official language in Galicia. From then on Galician has been present in the Galician’s daily life, like in the TV, in some newspapers and it is taught bilingually along with Spanish in primary and secondary schools as well as in the Galician universities.

The language is officially regulated by the Royal Galician Academy.


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Galician. Ethnologue. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Galician (Galego). Galician language, alphabet and pronunciation. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Galician: Definition of Galician in English by Lexico Dictionaries. Lexico Dictionaries | English. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Real Academia Galega. Ir a Real Academia Galega. Accessed August 17, 2019.

The Galician Language – The link between Spanish and Portuguese. European Youth Portal. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Blanca pictureWritten by Maria Blanca Escudero Fontan, trainee in the Direction of the Directorate B and in TermCoord. Holds a Degree in Translation and Interpretation ( Universidade de Vigo) and a MA in International Studies (USC).