How Many Languages Are Spoken In Spain? Discover Here

Spain is located on the Iberian peninsula of southwestern Europe and shares borders with Portugal, France, and Andorra. The capital is Madrid, with other prominent cities being Barcelona and Valencia. It is widely visited due to its long history, beautiful cities and countryside, and diverse cultures.

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Spain, with other official and/or recognized languages being Catalan, Basque, Galician, Aragonese, and Asturleonese. Foreign languages you may hear spoken by tourists and immigrants include Arabic, Romanian, and English.

In this article, you’ll learn about the different languages spoken in Spain, how widely they are spoken, and what to expect as an English speaker visiting the country.

La Pineda Spain 2019

What Languages Are Spoken in Spain?

Spain is a multilingual country. Not only are different languages spoken in households, but the Spanish government recognizes several official languages. This is different from the United States where, despite the presence of many languages, the government does not officially recognize one over another.

How Many Languages Are Spoken in Spain?

There are six major languages spoken in Spain. These include Spanish (Castilian), Catalan, Basque, Galician, Asturleonese, and Aragonese. Castilian (Spanish) is the official language but shares the spot with three other languages.

  • Castilian is Spain’s national and official language, but it’s more commonly known as Spanish. Castilian is considered the “proper” version of the language, with other dialects being derivatives. Catalan, Basque, and Galician are co-official languages of Spain. They are considered official languages in certain territories but not nationally.
  • Catalan is native to Catalonia and the Valencian Community. It is also known as Valencian, but there is some debate as to whether or not the Valencian dialect should be considered its own language, distinct from Catalan.
  • Basque, also known as Euskera, is native to the Basque Country. This region of northern Spain neighbors the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France. It has about 700,000 native speakers and is rarely spoken outside of the Basque Country.
  • Galician is native to Galicia in northwestern Spain. While Catalan sounds very similar to Spanish, Galician sounds and has more etymological similarities to the Portuguese language.
  • Asturleonese and Aragonese are recognized languages of Spain but are not considered official languages. It is estimated there are only a few thousand native speakers of each language, making them much less common than any of the previously mentioned ones.

Surprisingly, Euskera, the language spoken in the Basque country, is an isolated language. That means it bears no relation to Spanish or other European languages. Galician, meanwhile, is closely related to Portuguese and Spanish. Catalan is an Occitano-Romance language and is similar to other romance languages.

In addition to spoken languages, there are also three major sign languages used in Spain by the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities:

  • Spanish Sign Language
  • Catalan Sign Language
  • Valencian Sign Language

What Language Does Spain Mostly Speak?

Spain mostly speaks Spanish. Spanish is spoken by 98.9% of the native population. Other officially recognized languages are far less widely spoken: 17% speak Catalan, 7% speak Galician, and only 2% speak Basque. Many people in Spain speak more than one language.

Regional languages were strictly regulated and oppressed under the rule of dictator Francisco Franco from the late 1930s to the mid-1970s. This was an attempt to create a hegemonic, unified Spanish identity.

At the end of Franco’s reign, many attempts were made by the new democratic government to encourage the teaching and learning of other languages, including Catalan. Today, a lot of media in Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque Country is made in their local languages.

Is Spanish in Spain Similar to Mexican Spanish?

Although the Spanish language was brought over from Spain into Latin America through colonization, you shouldn’t expect the dialects you hear in Spain to be the same.

Spanish variants are unique to the areas they originate from, and sometimes can sound like different languages. However, you shouldn’t have too much trouble communicating with a Spanish speaker from Spain if you have only been exposed to Mexican Spanish.

Even if you have visited Mexico or any other Hispanic country, it is a good idea to study what Spanish from Spain sounds like before you visit. Knowing local dialects and slang can improve your visit since there won’t be as much of a language barrier between you and the locals.

You can read my guide on Mexican languages, which includes a section on the distinctions between Mexican Spanish and Spanish from Spain.

Portaventura Theme Park Salou Spain 2019
Portaventura Theme Park Salou Spain 2019

Is English Widely Spoken in Spain?

English isn’t widely spoken in Spain. It’s spoken by around 35.5% of Spanish adults. It’s not a language native to Spain and is also not widely spoken in Spain’s neighboring countries, Portugal, France, and Andorra.

There are some areas in Spain where you can find English-speaking communities, mostly made up of tourists and expats.

Is Spain English-Friendly?

According to recent reports, Spain has one of the lowest numbers of English speakers among European countries. Smaller countries rely more heavily on imports and international business, so they are more likely to have more proficient English speakers out of necessity.

Spain, however, is a larger and slightly more financially independent country.

Bigger cities and metropolitan areas are more likely to have a larger number of English speakers. In the Andalusia region of Spain there are several English-friendly towns ideal for visitors and tourists who may not know much Spanish or other local languages.

Final Thoughts

Spain is home to multiple languages, with Castilian Spanish being the national language. You may also encounter people who speak Catalan, Basque, or Galician.

As an English speaker, you may have trouble finding people who speak the language unless you go to tourist destinations and large cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Since most of the country does not speak English, it’s a good idea to know at least a few phrases in Spanish to help you get around and communicate with locals.

With this information, you can adequately prepare for future visits to Spain.