Galician Language: Everything You Need to Know

The Galician flag | ©Contando Estrelas / Wikimedia Commons
The Galician flag | ©Contando Estrelas / Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Esme Fox
28 August 2017

Spain has many different languages, not only Castilian – Basque, Catalan and Galician are also official languages. Galician is spoken in the autonomous region of Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain. Characterised by its wild coastlines, green hilly landscapes and maritime heritage, it’s a unique area of the country, even sharing some of its roots with the Celts. Here is our guide to everything you need to know about the Galician language.

It’s a Romance language

Galician is a Romance language, meaning that it shares its roots with other languages in the area such as Spanish, Catalan, French and Italian.

Map showing countries with Romance languages in Europe | ©5millionaccountswow / Wikimedia Commons

The language was invented around the 9th century

It is believed that Galician came about during the 9th century. During that time, and up until the Middle Ages, it had much more in common with Portuguese than it did with Spanish. After this time, the languages diverged slightly, with the introduction of more Spanish words, though you can still hear many similarities with Portuguese.

flag map of Galicia | ©Pedro A. Gracia Fajardo / Wikimedia Commons

It’s spoken by around 2.5 million people

Galician is spoken by around 2.5 million people around the world. It is mainly spoken in the Galicia region of Spain, but there are also many immigrants using it in places such as Argentina, Uruguay, Germany and Switzerland. Around 88% of the population of Galicia speak Galician on a day-to-day basis and over 90% understand it, even if they are not fluent.

Galician pipers | ©juantiagues / Flickr

It is not a dialect of Spanish

Many people assume that Galician is just a dialect of Spanish, while it’s actually its own individual language. Both Galician and Spanish are considered to be official languages in the region.

Map of languages spoken in Spain

It shares many similarities with both Spanish and Portuguese

Although Galician is not really a complete mixture of Spanish and Portuguese, it is very similar, sharing many of the same words and grammatical rules. If you can understand Spanish or Portuguese, it will be very easy for you to pick up what is being said, when reading or listening to Galician.

Portuguese flag | Pixabay

The language was revived in the 1980s

During the 1980s, there was a move to revive Galician. Like other minority languages in Spain such as Basque and Catalan, it was banned during the Franco regime and all official things had to be carried out in Spanish. In 1983 the Law for Linguistic Normalisation was approved, reinstating the language into society, including schools.

Children are taught in Galician at school | Pixabay

Galician has its own literature day

May 17 is the Day of Galician Letters, which celebrates literature written in the Galician language. The day dates back to 1963, May 17 being chosen because this was when Rosalía de Castro’s Galician Songs book was published in Vigo in 1863.

The Galician flag | ©Contando Estrelas / Wikimedia Commons

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