The languages of Spain include more than just Spanish, an important fact that any business with a target audience in the Iberian Peninsula should remember.
Many people realize that there are different versions of Spanish that need to be addressed in translation and interpreting: Mexican Spanish is different from European Spanish, for instance. When marketing to Spanish customers in Spain itself, however, additional localization measures are needed to address the various regional languages beyond Spanish, including Basque, Catalan, Valencian and Galician.
The Basque language is spoken primarily in the Basque Country of Spain, which encompasses the areas of Álava, Navarre and Bizkaia, as well as the province of Gipuzkoa (or, as they’re spelled in Spanish, Navarra, Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa). The Spanish government granted the Basque Country regional autonomy in 1979, and today Basque is an official language of the region, along with Castilian Spanish.
Unlike many other languages in the region, Basque is not considered a Romance language, though it has been influenced by the Latin-descended languages spoken nearby. It continues to be used as a language of instruction in schools, with 714,135 speakers as of 2016. The Basque people are very proud of their language and culture, and some still hope to one day have the Basque state completely separate from Spain.
There are some 2.4 million Galician language speakers in total around the world, most of them located in Galicia, Spain. Some speakers of the language can also be found in neighboring Portugal, however. Galician, or Galego or Gallego, is a Romance language and is closely related to Portuguese.
The Catalan language has a history of being repressed in Spain. In 1923, the dictator Miguel Prim de Rivera banned the use of all languages in Spain other than Castilian Spanish. After the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco brought efforts to promote and preserve the Catalan language to a halt when he ascended to power in 1939.
Since the 1970s, however, Catalonia has existed as an autonomous community, and efforts to preserve the language have been increased. There are some 10 million Catalan speakers living in Spain today, most of them located in the regions of Catalonia and Valencia.
The Valencian language is spoken primarily in the southwestern Spanish province of Valencia, which includes Valencia, Alicante and Castellon. The city of Valencia counts as the regional capital.
Most linguists label Valencian as a dialect of the Catalan language, and the two share many characteristics and are mutually intelligible. Differences arise in details of pronunciation, verb conjugation and some vocabulary. There are still some people who argue that Valencian should be considered an independent language, as opposed to a dialect of Catalan.
Why Localize for Spain’s Less Common Languages?
The historical repression that has impacted many of the languages found in modern-day Spain has inspired a great linguistic pride in the speakers of these languages today. Businesses and individuals are likely to find greater success if they appeal to these non-Spanish-speakers by localizing their materials when they operate in regions where the less common languages of Spain are spoken, like the Basque Country and Catalonia.