Languages and Dialects of Spain

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Spain: Languages and Dialects

With a population of approximately 45 million Spaniards and 3.5 million immigrants, Spain is a country of contrasts where the richness of its culture blends it up with the variety of languages and dialects used. Being one of the largest economies worldwide, and the second largest country in Europe, Spain is a very appealing destination for tourists as well as for immigrants from around the globe. Almost all Spaniards are used to speaking at least two different languages, but protecting and preserving that right has not been easy for them; Spaniards have had to struggle with war, ignorance, criticism and the governments, in order to preserve and defend what identifies them, and deal with the consequences (some of which are good and some of which are bad) of dealing with this multilingual society they have. (Spanish-Town-Guides, 2002-2011) In Spain there are 17th autonomous regions, the official language spoken in each region is Spanish or Castilian, however, there are three other recognized regional languages used throughout the country (Wikipedia contributors, 2011); Catalan (spoken in Catalonia, Valencian Community, and Balearic Islands), Basque (spoken in Basque Country and Navarre), and Galician, (spoken in Galicia) (Wikipedia contributors, 2011). Distributed throughout Spain there are a variety of smaller groups or regions with their own dialects, most of them Latin derivatives (as well as the main languages); Aragonese (spoken in Aragon, Huesca and Zaragoza), Asturian (spoken in Asturias),Caló (known as the language of the gypsies), Valencian and Mallorquín (Both dialects from Catalan and spoken in Valencia and Mallorca), Extremaduran (spoken in Extremadura), Occitan (also considered as a dialect of Catalan) and Gascon (that is considered a dialect of Occitan) (About.com, 2011). Each region´s government has put all the efforts to create laws to ensure that people in all regions speak and practice their own language (Council of Europe, 2011); such is the case of Catalonia which is the region where there have been more efforts to preserve language. In Catalonia, there are no places where natives do not know Catalan or any of the dialects from it, and even foreigners living there must deal with this “handicap” since, in order to find a job, they need to learn to speak Catalan; otherwise, it will be very difficult to get hired, and social life can be limited as well since everyone around uses Catalan to communicate (Abancó, 1998). Spaniards, especially in Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia have become very protective of their own languages and dialects, since they outright their extinction during Francoist period, which make them fight to ensure their languages remain being an important part, if not the most important part, of their life and their societies (Wikipedia contributors, 2011). Each region, with a language different than Castilian, is an avid defendant of their language; article 3 of the Spanish Constitution (About the Castilian and the other Spaniard languages) states: “1. Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it.”. “2. The other Spanish languages shall also be official in the respective Self-governing Regions in accordance with their Statutes.” and “3. The wealth of the different linguistic modalities of Spain is a cultural heritage which shall be specially respected and protected” (Cortes Generales de España, 1978). This decree has helped to repair the damage caused during Francoist period (in which Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco) from 1936 to 1975, when many of the regional languages were almost lost since they were forbidden; an ironic fact since general Franco was born in A Coruña, one of Galicia´s main cities, where Galician is more used than Castilian to communicate (Eric Solsten and Sandra W. Meditz, 1988). When the civil war ended, in 1975, and, in...
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