If you’re considering learning Spanish, you may be a bit confused about which Spanish to speak. Not only is the Spanish spoken in Latin America different from the Spanish spoken in Spain, but each region seems to have its own influences and dialects. If you’re traveling to Spain and want to learn a language spoken by the majority of Spaniards, you’ll want to speak Castilian Spanish .
Castilian Spanish refers to the standardized dialect of Spanish spoken throughout much of Spain, especially in central Spain. Under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the early 19th century, Castilian Spanish was mandated as the official language of Spain, and all other languages were banned. After Franco’s death, the Spanish Constitution allowed many regions of Spain to adopt a co-official language, and today several areas are considered bilingual.
With decades of language learning experience, Rosetta Stone understands and can teach the nuances of the Spanish language. Our Spanish lessons are offered in both Castilian and Latin American Spanish so you can customize your language learning experience for the appropriate vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Whether you select Castilian Spanish or Latin American Spanish, our Dynamic Immersion® methodology will introduce you to words and phrases in the context of situations in which they’d occur.
Castilian vs. Catalan Spanish
For those unfamiliar with the language breakdown in Spain, it can be easy to confuse the terms Castilian and Catalan. Castilian, referred to by the Spanish as Castellano, is the standardized form of Spanish spoken throughout much of Spain and is considered a variety of Peninsular Spanish. Peninsular Spanish encompasses all of the varieties of the Spanish language spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, including Castilian Spanish.
Catalan, however, is an entirely different Romance language derived from vulgar Latin. About 4 million people are native speakers of the Catalan language, primarily in Catalonia, País Valencià, the Balearic Islands, and the Aragon Strip. However, only about 35.6% of the Catalan-speaking population consider Catalan their native tongue, and most also speak Castilian Spanish.
With so many different languages and influences in Spain, pronunciation can be a tricky endeavor. That’s why Rosetta Stone provides instant feedback in every Spanish lesson with a speech-recognition engine called TruAccent. Our advanced voice-recognition technology uses the accent and intonation of native and non-native Spanish speakers to encourage you to perfect your pronunciation before moving on to the next lesson. That way no matter which region of Spain you find yourself in, you’ll be able to say it like a local.
Learn Spain’s Five Languages or Lenguas De España
The languages of Spain, or as Spaniards refer to them lenguas de España , are five different languages that enjoy co-official status with Castilian Spanish. The majority of lenguas de España are Romance languages, and while some have a close relationship with Spanish, others are markedly different in both grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
1. Aranese or Occitan
Aranese is sometimes referred to as Occitan, although the Aranese language is just one of the Occitan languages . Occitan has six major dialects, all of which are listed as endangered by UNESCO. Although it’s one of the co-official languages of Spain, Aranese is more closely related to French and Catalan. An estimated 200,000 Occitan speakers are primarily from the Val d’Aran region, which straddles the border between Spain and France.
Basque , one of the oldest living languages in the world, is primarily spoken in the Basque autonomous region along the coast of northern Spain. Called Euskara by about 750,000 native Basque speakers, the language has borrowed vocabulary from Spanish but remains distinct grammatically. Basque is the only non-Romance language to enjoy co-official status in mainland Spain.
Once banned in Spain under the rule of dictator Francisco Franco, Catalan is now the mother tongue of about 4 million native speakers. Most of these speakers reside in Catalonia, País Valencià, the Balearic Islands, and the Aragon Strip. While Catalan has some similarities to other Romance languages like Spanish and Italian, it evolved independently from the vulgar Latin used by the Romans.
Valencian is actually a variety of Catalan, but it has co-official status alongside Spanish in the Valencian community. The Valencian autonomous community, located along the eastern shore of Spain, is the fourth most populous area in Spain and home to Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia. More than 80% of Valencians can understand Valencian or Catalan, but only about 50% speak it.
Galician is spoken in the northwest region of Spain, but also in some border areas of Asturias, Castile, and León. It is a romance language with about 2.4 million speakers, but many say it more closely resembles Portuguese than Spanish. The two languages have shared linguistic roots in Galician-Portuguese, the native tongue of the region until Portugal became independent in 1139 and Galicia fell under the control of the Crown of Castile. Like Catalan, Galician was banned under Franco but is currently experiencing a resurgence, especially in publishing and literature.
Is Learning Spain’s Other Languages Necessary?
While Spain’s constitution allows for the determination of co-official languages, Castilian Spanish is still the most widely-spoken and well-established language in Spain . Most of the autonomous regions are bilingual, and with few exceptions, you’ll find speaking Castilian Spanish will more than suffice.
However, if you are traveling to a rural area where you’re likely to encounter the diversity of Spain’s linguistic landscape, it can make sense to be familiar with a few words of Galician or Catalan for the following reasons.
Knowing the language puts history in context
As you tour, travel, and talk to locals, you’ll encounter historical references that make more sense if you’re aware of the rich and nuanced linguistic history in Spain.
Familiarity with sounds helps to decipher pronunciation
Knowing at least a few words and some basics about the language may help you pronounce names of places or understand regional dialects. For instance, in Barcelona, the largest city in Catalonia, you might be tempted to pronounce “c” as “th.” But the locals pronounce it as a Catalan would with the “c” sounding like an “s.”
Speaking the language gives you a more authentic experience
Being able to speak the language allows you to have experiences tourists can’t always enjoy. Whether you’re chatting about where to get the best jamón with your cab driver or getting off the beaten path into a charming village, knowing what to say will earn you extra points with the locals.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Spanish (Spain) whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app .
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation .
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.