Free Spain travel guide

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Free Spain Travel Guide

Language of Spain

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Spain’s Language - Free Spain Travel Guidebook

Castilian, Catalan, Galician and other dialects.

Castile around the year 1400

The structure of modern Spanish and more than half its vocabulary derive from the Latin spoken during the Roman colonization of the peninsula. Words from Arabic; other European languages, notably French and Italian; and from the Indian languages of colonial settlements further enrich the vocabulary.

In a broad sense, the term “Spanish” is taken to mean three of the four languages native to Spain – Castilian, Catalan and Galician – and their dialects. In a restricted sense, it is synonymous with Castilian, the official idiom used by government offices, courts, most schools and the media. Approximately 70 percent of the total population of Spain now claims Castilian as their mother tongue.

With slight modifications in usage, Spanish (Castilian) serves as the official, primary or secondary language of 250 million people in Spain, most of the Antilles, parts of Africa and North America, Mexico, Central America, South America with the exception of Brazil and the Guayanas and, to some extent, in the Philippines among the upper classes. This important romance language, ranking third in number of speakers worldwide, also serves as one of the five official languages of the United Nations.

Dialects of Castilian include Aragonese, rich in proverbs and songs; Leonese, widely variable from village to village and Andalusian, source of many slang words incorporated into national speech.

Catalan, native to Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, is more akin to Provencal, the language of southwestern France, than to Castilian. Although possessing a strong literary tradition, this supple language is preserved largely through the personal communication of six million speakers. Valencian and Balear are its principal dialects.

Melodious Galician, with four dialects corresponding to Galicia’s four provinces, resembles Portuguese. Used by about two million people in rural areas and primarily within the family, it is not being formally passed on to the next generation.

Fishing Boats, Laxe, Galicia

The fourth language of Spain, bearing no similarity to any European tongue but believed to be related to the speech of the Berbers of North Africa, is Basque, presently spoken by some 200,000 people on both sides of the Pyrenees. Thousands of years of isolation have produced eight dialects, 25 subdialects and a primarily folkloric literature.

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