Spanish in Spain
Language Resources

Languages in Spain

In Spain they speak Spanish, right? Well, kind of. Spain actually has four official languages. Castellano - the more precise name for the Spanish we know - is spoken throughout Spain and is the country's official language. However, what many people don't know is that, along with Castellano, there are three other fully-developed independent languages in Spain.

These languages Gallego, Catalán and Vasco, have co-official language status in their respective regions - Galicia, Cataluña and Pais Vasco (Basque Country) - and have a significant presence in the press, books and media. They derived independently of Castellano, which means that they are languages and not dialects.

Dialects in Spain

Along with the several languages, there is a wealth of regional dialects that add to Spain's linguistic variety. This means that Spanish has taken on unique characteristics, be they in intonation, pronunciation or vocabulary, from the places where it is spoken.

Andalucían and Canary Island Dialects

The Spanish dialects spoken in Andalucía and the Canary Islands share similarities with the Spanish spoken in Latin America and in the Caribbean. The Andalucían dialect is perhaps Spain's most recognizable dialect and the second most widespread after "Madrileño".

  • Seseo: s, c and z pronounced like an s
    • Centros (centers) sounds like "sentros"
  • Ceceo: s, c and z all pronounced like "th"
    • Centros (centers) sounds like "thentroth"
    • Common in Cádiz
  • Aspirated pronunciation of the s; pronounced like an "h" at the end of words
    • Las niñas (the girls) sounds like "Lah niñah"
    • Los papeles (the papers) sounds like "Loh papeleh"
  • Omitting letters/sounds in spoken Spanish
    • Pescado (fish) ends up sounding like "pescao"
  • "l" often pronounced as "r" before consonants
    • Alma (soul) sounds like "arma"
    • Alcalde (mayor) sounds like "arcarde"
  • Dropping final consonants of words
    • Mujer sounds like "mujé"
  • Use of "ustedes" instead of "vosotros" to say "you (plural)"
  • Yeísmo
    • "ll" pronounced like a "y", while in rest of Spain pronounced like a soft j, or like the second g in garage.
    • Te llamo (pronounced te jamo) becomes "Te yamo"
  • Canary Island vocabulary
    • Influences from Guanche culture, ancient pre-European civilization that lived on Canary Islands

Madrileño Dialect

The "Madrileño" (named for Madrid) dialect is Spain's most widespread dialect and is considered to be a transitional dialect that connects southern Spanish accents, namely Andalucían, with the northern Castellano.

  • Pronunciation of c and z like the sound "th"; NOT ceceo
    • Los centros sounds like "Los thentros"
    • In Madrid region and northern half of Spain