November 2022

Languages in Spain's autonomous regions

In all autonomous regions of Spain with a regional language, it is noticeable that the majority of inhabitants, with the exception of Galicia, state Spanish as their mother tongue.

The Spanish regional languages in the other areas are spoken by minorities in each case.

Percentages of people with mother tongue Spanish in regions with regional language

Balearic Islands: 47.7% Spanish, 42.6% Balearic/Catalan[1],[2]
As of 2003
Basque Country approx. 73% Spanish (only 27% of the inhabitants of the Spanish Basque Country speak Basque)[3]
As of 2015
Galicia: 27.1% Spanish, 23.1% both, 47.4% Galician[4]
As of 2008
Catalonia: 54.99% Spanish[5]
As of 2008
Valencia: 56.1% Spanish[6]
As of 2015

With the exception of the Basque Country, a large number in the areas with a regional language claim to be bilingual. This is due to two circumstances. First, with the exception of Basque, the other reginal languages are Romance languages just like Spanish, they are very similar. Secondly, teaching in the regional language is compulsory. The extent of this imposition varies in the different regions.

However, as far as the question of the practical use of the respective language is concerned, one may assume that fewer and fewer people use the regional languages. The official surveys on the percentage of the respective mother tongues are partly quite outdated. Information is provided by a survey from 2020 commented on by the Plataforma per la Llengua (Platform for the Language) and the notorious Escola Valenciana[7] (Valenciano school). They complain that in the capital Valencia only 15% of the inhabitants still speak Valenciano and as a result demand a stricter language imposition for Valenciano.


Spanish is - after Chinese - the second most spoken mother tongue in the world. About 520 million people speak it. (English is the mother tongue of about 360 million).

Spaniards sometimes speak of Castilian to indicate the difference from other languages used in Spain such as Galician, Catalan, etc.

Regional languages of the eastern Mediterranean coast

Balearic, Catalan and Valenciano are regional languages in the three corresponding eastern autonomies.

Some sources claim that Balearic and Valenciano are dialects of Catalan. Wikipedia is one of these sources. These claims are probably politically coloured, as the Spanish separatists demand a 'Països Catalans'[8] and by this, in Spain alone, they primarily mean the inclusion of the autonomous territories of the Balearic Islands and the Comunidad Valenciana.

Linguists as well as politicians certainly use other arguments in this discussion.

The fact is that Catalan separatists strongly promote the Catalanisation of the Balearic language and Valenciano in the respective regions financially - also from funds of the Catalan budget. There is resistance to this, as suggested not only by the cover photo of a demonstration against the appropriation by the „Països Catalans“ on my book.
For those interested, here are two links:
AVL secesionista versus RACV historicista from 24 January 2008 (Secessionist AVL versus historicist RACV)
La AVL: caballo de Troya del pancatalanismo en Valencia of 6 August 2020 (The AVL: Trojan horse of pan-Catalanism in Valencia).
AVL means Academy Valenciana de la Lengua (Valencian Academy of Language) and RACV means Real Academia de Cultura Valenciana (Royal Academy of Valencian Culture).

Balearic language

Balearic is spoken on the Balearic Islands, mainly with the 3 dialects Mallorquin, Menorquin and Ibizan. It is very similar to Catalan and/or Valenciano.

The official languages on the Balearic Islands are Spanish and Balearic.


According to Wikipedia[5], Catalan[2] is spoken by around 9.2 million people in 2018. This number includes those on whom the language has been imposed. The number of native speakers is given as 4.1 million in English Wikipedia.

There are 3 official languages in Catalonia: Spanish, Catalan and Aran or Aranese.

How to recognise Spanish or Catalan from the letterings?


According to German Wikipedia, Valenciano is spoken by around 2.4 million people as of 2018; English Wikipedia speaks of 2.4 million native speakers. This leaves it unclear how many people were forced to learn Valenciano at school or elsewhere. But it is not that significant from a quantitative point of view.

In Valencia there are 2 official languages: Spanish and Valenciano.

How do you recognise Spanish or Valenciano from the lettering?

Regional languages in northern or north-western Spain

Basque is an isolated language, which means it is not related to any other known language.

Galician, on the other hand, is a Romance language, just like all other Romance languages. To the layperson, it appears to be a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese.


Basque is spoken by approximately 750,000 to 1,185,000 people in France and in Spain, including some in the province of Navarra.[3]

There are two official languages in the Basque Country: Spanish and Basque


Galician is spoken by about 3.5 million people.

There are two official languages in Galicia: Spanish and Galician.

How do you recognise Spanish or Galician from the letterings

Other languages and dialects in Spain

This is not a complete list of languages and dialects spoken in Spain.

[1] German Wikipedia cites as its source Cifras oficiales de población resultantes de la revisión del Padrón municipal a 1 de enero
[2] On this blog I usually use the term Catalan instead of Catalan, as would probably be correct. But most Germans who live here use the term Catalan, probably because that's what it's called in Spanish. In German, we also say compjuter, for example, instead of computer or Rechner.
[3] German Wikipedia cites archive link as source
[4] German Wikipedia cites Conocimiento y uso del gallego. Datos de años anteriores. Años 2003 y 2008
[5] German Wikipedia cites the source Usos Lingüístics. Llengua inicial, d'identificació i habitual.
[6] spanish Wikipedia cites as source Conocimiento y uso del Valenciano, Encuesta de 2015, Síntesis de resultados, Generalidad Valenciana.
[7] see article of 4.10.2018: "Escola Valenciana" or of 22.2.2019 "This is how our children are indoctrinated"
[8] see article of 21.10.2018: "Valencian tax money for an imperial Catalonia!" or of 31 October 2018: "Even more tax money for separatists"