What is Galician Language?

Introduction to the Galician Language

Galician is a Romance language spoken by about 3 million galician people, mainly in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. Galician and Spanish are the two official languages of Galicia. Galicio has a long literary tradition and was once the dominant language of Galicia. Over the centuries, the influence of Castilian Spanish caused a decline in the use of Galician. However, in the 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest in preserving and promoting the Galician language.

Today, Galician and Spanish co-exist in Galicia. Road signs are in both languages, and most Galicians are bilingual. Galician is taught in schools, used in media, and heard in music. The government promotes the use of Galician through policy and funding.

Interesting facts about galician Langauge:

  • Galician is part of the Western Ibero-Romance group, closely related to Portuguese. The two languages share 89% of their lexicon.
  • The Galician alphabet has 27 letters. It does not have K, W or Y.
  • Nouns have two genders (masculine/feminine) and two numbers (singular/plural).
  • Verbs also have two numbers and three persons (first, second, third).
  • The definite article has many forms based on gender, number, and initial letter of the noun.
  • The language has its own rich tradition of poetry, novels, and folk music.

While Galician may not be as widely spoken as Spanish or English, its long history and important cultural role make it a language worth learning. With its close connection to Portuguese, knowledge of Galician can also help in learning that language. If you have an interest in the culture, music, or literature of Galicia, learning some Galician is a great way to gain a deeper appreciation for this unique region of Spain.

The Origins and History of Galicia Language

Galician is a Romance language spoken by about 3 million Galician people, mainly in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. Galico descended from Vulgar Latin and developed alongside Spanish, though the two languages were separated for centuries.Galician has been spoken in Galicia since the Middle Ages. During this time, Galicia was a kingdom within the larger realm of the Kingdom of León. Galician flourished as an administrative and literary language from the 13th to 16th centuries. This period is considered the golden age of Galician literature.

In the 17th century, the use of Galician declined due to the centralization of power in Spain under the Habsburg monarchy. The Galician language was barred from being used in education and public administration. Instead, Castilian Spanish was promoted in Galicia.In the 19th century, there was a revival of interest in the Galician language and culture. Galician was used again in literature, and writers began using it to express Galician identity. In the 20th century, the Galician government passed laws to recognize Galician as an official language of Galicia, alongside Spanish.

Today, Galician is recognized as an official language of Galicia, alongside Spanish. It is taught in schools, used in media, and present in public signage. However, Spanish still dominates in most formal settings. The future status of Galician is uncertain, as younger generations increasingly use Spanish in their daily lives. Efforts are being made to promote the use of Galician and ensure this ancient Romance language survives and thrives.

Some other key facts about Galician Language History:

  • Galician is most closely related to Portuguese, followed by Spanish.
  • Galicia was once part of the Kingdom of Portugal before being absorbed into Spain.
  • Galician uses the Latin alphabet and has many loanwords from Portuguese and Spanish.
  • Galician literature is renowned, from the Middle Ages to modern times. Key works include Cantigas de Santa Maria and works by Rosalía de Castro.

Galician Dialects

The Galician language contains several distinct dialects that developed in different regions of Galicia. The dialects differ in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.

Eastern Galician

Eastern Galician is spoken in the provinces of Lugo and A Coruña. Words tend to end in open vowels like ‘a’ and ‘e’ instead of nasal vowels. For example, the word for ‘good’ is ‘bo’ instead of ‘bon’.

Verbs also differ, like ‘ter’ meaning ‘to have’ instead of ‘ter’. Pronunciation in Eastern Galician is characterized by seseo, where ‘s’ and soft ‘c’ are pronounced the same, like ‘s’.

Western Galician

Western Galician originates in the provinces of Pontevedra and Ourense. It features more nasal vowels, like ‘bon’ instead of ‘bo’. The pronoun ‘vos’ is used more often instead of ‘ti’. Western Galician also has distinctive vocabulary, like ‘muiño’ for ‘mill’ instead of ‘muíño’.

Pronunciation in Western Galician shows distinción, where ‘s’ and soft ‘c’ are pronounced differently. ‘S’ has a ‘sh’ sound, while soft ‘c’ has a ‘th’ pronunciation.

Minorcan Galician

Minorcan Galician developed on the Balearic island of Menorca and is considered an archaic form of the language. It has retained many words and expressions that have disappeared from continental Galician. Minorcan Galician also uses different verb forms, like ‘soi’ meaning ‘I am’ instead of ‘son’.

The Galician language is rich in diversity, with each dialect offering a glimpse into the region’s cultural heritage and history. Exploring the dialects is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of this corner of Spain.

Galicia Pronunciation

Galicia has some key differences in pronunciation and vocabulary compared to Spanish or Portuguese. Familiarizing yourself with the basics will help you get around and engage with locals.

Galician has five vowels: a, e, i, o, u. They are generally pronounced the same as in Spanish. The consonant ‘ñ’ is also common, as in Spanish.

Some key differences:

  • ‘C’ is pronounced like the ‘th’ in ‘think’, not like a ‘k’ sound. For example, ‘gracias’ (thank you) is pronounced ‘grass-ee-as’.
  • ‘G’ is usually pronounced like a throaty ‘h’ sound, as in ‘loch’. For example, ‘Galicia’ sounds like ‘Gah-lee-thee-ah’.
  • ‘X’ is pronounced ‘sh’, like ‘shush’. For example, ‘Xacobeo’ (Way of St. James) is ‘shah-koh-beh-o’.
  • ‘Ll’ and ‘Ch’ also have distinct pronunciations, like ‘ly’ and ‘tch’ respectively.

Some Common Galician phrases to know:

  • Ola! (Hello!)
  • Bos días (Good day) / Boas tardes (Good afternoon) / Boas noites (Good evening)
  • Adeus (Goodbye)
  • Por favor (Please)
  • Grazas (Thank you)
  • De nada (You’re welcome)
  • Fala castelán? (Do you speak Spanish?)
  • Non falo galego (I don’t speak Galician)
  • Onde hai…? (Where is…?)

Learning a few key phrases can go a long way in showing your appreciation for the local culture. Don’t be afraid to try out your Galician—most locals will appreciate your effort and happily switch to English or Spanish if needed. With an open and curious mindset, you’ll pick up the rhythms of this unique Romance language in no time.

Key Differences Between Galician, Spanish and Portuguese

Galician, Spanish, and Portuguese are all Romance languages that originated from Latin, so they share some similarities. However, there are a few key differences to be aware of:

Galician has retained features that Spanish and Portuguese have lost. Some examples are:

  • The preservation of Latin /f/ at the beginning of words, like fillo (son) and ferro (iron)
  • The preservation of Latin groups like -mb-, -pt-, and -lt- at the end of words, like ambos (both), noite (night) and tempo (weather)

Galician has many words derived from Portuguese, while also incorporating words from Spanish. This mix of influences results in:

  • A large number of false friends or words that are spelled similarly but have different meanings. Like leite which means milk in Galician, not reading (Portuguese) or summer (Spanish).
  • Many synonyms, with words coming from Portuguese and Spanish. Like rapaz (boy) and mozo (boy), or vagar (to stroll) and pasear (to stroll).

Galician grammar has some distinct features not found in Spanish or Portuguese:

  • Two different forms of the definite article, o/a/os/as and lo/la/los/las, depending on the first letter of the next word.
  • A special pronoun, a gente, meaning “people” or “we”.
  • Verbs have a special form, called pessoal, used with the pronoun a gente.

While Galician, Spanish and Portuguese may seem quite alike at first, a deeper dive into the languages reveals interesting differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Exploring these distinctions will give you a better appreciation for Galicia’s unique Romance language. Familiarity with the key differences outlined here will help in navigating conversations and relationships with Galicians.

Galician Literature and Poetry Through the Ages

Galician literature has a long and rich history spanning over 1,000 years. Some of the earliest known works were religious texts from the 12th century, written in Galician-Portuguese. As the language evolved, Galician literature flourished during the Middle Ages.

The 15th and 16th Centuries

Some of the greatest works of early Galician literature were produced during the 15th and 16th centuries. Notable authors include Afonso X, King of Castile, who helped promote Galician as a literary language, and poet Martin Codax, whose 13th-century Cantigas d’Amigo are among the earliest known love songs. The Renaissance also saw the rise of playwrights like Gil Vicente, considered the father of Portuguese drama.

The 17th to 19th Centuries

After a period of decline, there was a revival of Galician literature in the 17th century known as the Rexurdimento. Poets like Manuel Curros Enríquez and Eduardo Pondal experimented with new forms and incorporated folklore into their works. The 19th century saw the publication of the first Galician-language newspaper and the emergence of regionalist movements championing Galician culture.

Early 20th Century to Today

In the early 20th century, the Semana de Arte Moderna in Brazil had a big influence on Galician poets like Manuel Antonio and Eduardo Blanco Amor. Following the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, Galician literature went underground but experienced a rebirth in the 1960s and 70s. Contemporary authors like Manuel Rivas, Suso de Toro and Yolanda Castaño have achieved international acclaim. Poetry and lyrical prose remain popular genres, with new voices emerging all the time.

Galician literature has endured for centuries, reflecting the spirit and experiences of the Galician people. Despite a history of political oppression, Galician authors have persevered in using their native language to share stories, spread ideas, and celebrate their cultural identity. The future of Galician letters looks bright.

Grammar of Galician Language

Galician language shares some similarities with Portuguese and Spanish in terms of grammar. As with those languages, Galician has both masculine and feminine nouns, as well as singular and plural forms. Articles, demonstratives and possessive pronouns change form depending on the noun they modify.

Verbs in Galician also change form depending on the subject, person, number, tense, mode, and aspect. Galician has three conjugations of verbs similar to those in Spanish and Portuguese. Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern of endings depending on these factors, while irregular verbs change in less predictable ways.

Galician has two main classes of pronouns – personal pronouns and demonstrative pronouns. Personal pronouns refer to the subject, object or possessive forms like I, you, he, or she, we, you, they. Demonstrative pronouns like this/these and that/those are used to point out nouns.

When it comes to syntax, Galician word order in sentences is usually subject-verb-object. Adjectives normally come after the noun they modify. Questions can be formed by changing the word order and adding question words like who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Some other aspects of Galician grammar include:

  • Definite and indefinite articles like o/a/os/as (the) and un/unha (a/an)
  • Prepositions like a (to/at), de (of/from), con (with), por (for), etc.
  • Conjunctions such as e (and), pero (but), ou (or), etc. to join words, phrases or clauses
  • Cardinal and ordinal numbers to express quantity and order
  • Adverbs like moi (very), bastante (quite), case (almost), etc. to modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs

Overall, familiarity with Spanish or Portuguese grammar will help in learning and understanding Galician grammar. With practice, the rules will become second nature!

Sound System Of Galician Language

Language in Galicia has its own unique sound system that sets it apart from Spanish and Portuguese. Some key features include:

Galician has five vowels: a, e, i, o, and u. The vowels a, e, and o are often pronounced differently than in Spanish or Portuguese. For example, “a” is pronounced like the “a” in “cat”, “e” is pronounced like the “e” in “pet”, and “o” is pronounced like the “o” in “pot”.

Galician only has one consonant that is not found in Spanish or Portuguese: “ll”, pronounced like the “lli” in “million”. This consonant is considered a separate letter in the Galician alphabet.

Galician has some consonant combinations not found in Spanish or Portuguese, like “nh”, “gu”, “gue” and “gui”. For example, the word “lughar” (place) is pronounced “loogar”.

Stress usually falls on the second-to-last syllable of a word, unlike in Spanish where it falls on the last syllable. For example, the word for “Galicia” in Galician is “Galiza”, pronounced “ga-LEE-za”.

The “z” is always pronounced like the “s” in “snake”. There are no distinctions between “c”, “z” and “s” like in Spanish.

Galician has no silent letters. All letters are pronounced, unlike in Spanish where letters like “h” and “u” are often silent. This means most words are pronounced as they are spelled.

The Galician language went through a “normalization” process where the official alphabet, grammar, and vocabulary were standardized. This has helped preserve the language and made it easier to teach. However, there are still variations in accents and vocabulary across different regions of Galicia.

Through understanding Galician’s unique sound system and alphabet, you’ll be well on your way to grasping this fascinating Romance language. Keep practicing and listening to native Galician speech, and you’ll be conversing comfortably in no time!

Galician Pronunciation

Speaking Galician correctly starts with pronouncing the language properly. Galician has some distinct sounds not found in English that are important to master. Pay attention to these key pronunciation rules:

Galician Vowel

It has five vowel sounds:

  • A, E, I, O, U. The vowels are pronounced as in Spanish. A as in father, E as in let, I as in machine, O as in more, and U as in rule.

Galico has a trilled R,

  • Pronounced by vibrating the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Practice rolling your Rs to get the correct trilled sound.

Galician Consonants

Galician has some distinct consonant sounds:

  • X is pronounced like the “sh” in “shoe”.
  • Ñ is pronounced like the “ny” in “canyon”.
  • LL has a “y” or “j” sound, like “million” or “tortilla”.
  • Double consonants like CC, TT, PP, etc. are pronounced by prolonging the sound. For example, “botella” (bottle) is pronounced “bo-te-lya”.

Stress and accent marks are important in Galician.

  • The stress is usually on the second-to-last syllable. Words ending in a vowel, S, or N have the stress on the last syllable.
  • Accent marks may be used to indicate irregular stress. Pay attention to accent marks to pronounce words correctly.

Some helpful pronunciation phrases to practice:

  • “Como estás?” (How are you?)
  • “Grazas” (Thank you)
  • “Por favor” (Please)
  • “Desculpe” (Excuse me)
  • “Falas galego?” (Do you speak Galician?)

With regular practice of these pronunciation rules and helpful phrases, you’ll be speaking Galician like a natural in no time. Don’t get discouraged if it feels difficult at first—focus on listening to native Galician speakers and mimicking the sounds. Your pronunciation and accent will improve over time.

Useful Galician Words and Phrases Translated

Galician, like any language, has its fair share of challenging words and phrases. Here are some common Galician words and expressions translated into English to help you navigate conversations.

  • Boa noite – Good evening
  • Bos días – Good morning
  • Ata logo – See you soon
  • Grazas – Thank you
  • Por favor – Please
  • Como estás? – How are you?
  • Estou ben, grazas – I’m fine, thanks

Some useful questions and responses:

  • Fala inglés? – Do you speak English?
  • Non, só falo galego – No, I only speak Galician
  • Podes falar máis lento? – Can you speak more slowly?
  • Non entendo – I don’t understand

When eating out:

  • A conta, por favor – The check, please
  • Quero un café – I would like a coffee
  • Sen azucre – Without sugar

To get around:

  • Onde está…? – Where is…?
  • Como podo ir a…? – How do I get to…?
  • Podes indicarme o camiño a…? – Can you show me the way to…?

Some common Galician expressions:

  • Deus queira – God willing
  • Xa veremos – We’ll see
  • Vai ser – It’s going to be
  • Non hai problema – No problem
  • Vale – Okay

Learning some useful Galician words and phrases, even if just the basics, is a great way to show respect to the local culture. Don’t be afraid to try out your Galician—even small efforts will surely be appreciated! Locals will likely respond in kind by speaking slowly and clearly to help you understand.

The Status of the Galician Language Today

Today, Galician is recognized as an official language of Galicia, alongside Spanish. However, for much of recent history, its use was suppressed under Franco’s dictatorship. Since the transition to democracy in the late 1970s, the language has seen a revival.

Galician is closely related to Portuguese, with which it shares up to 89% lexical similarity. It is spoken by around 2.4 million galician people, primarily in northwestern Spain. The majority of Galicians are bilingual in both Galician and Spanish.

Galician Status History

  • Galician is co-official with Spanish in Galicia. Public institutions like schools, media, and government are required to provide services in both languages. Road signs and documents are often in Galician and Spanish.
  • A standard written form of Galician based on the central Galician dialect was established in the early 1980s. This helped to unite and regulate the language.
  • Primary and secondary education in Galicia is offered in both Galician and Spanish. Galician language classes are compulsory, helping new generations learn and preserve the language.
  • Some Galicians feel Galician should have more prominence, as a key part of Galician identity and culture. Others argue Spanish should maintain a strong role, as it is more widely spoken globally. There is debate around finding the right balance between the two languages.
  • Galician faces challenges like the dominance of Spanish in media and daily life. However, creative works in Galician are thriving, from literature to music, film, TV, and radio. Online content in Galician is also growing.
  • UNESCO classifies Galician as a “vulnerable” language. While no longer under direct threat, its long term survival still depends on active promotion and use. Overall, Galician has made remarkable progress, but continuous efforts are needed to secure its future.

The story of Galician is one of resilience. Against all odds, it has emerged from a dark period of repression to become a co-official language of Spain. Galicia’s bilingual society, and the passion of Galicians for their language and culture, give hope that Galician will continue to strengthen in the years to come.

Difference Between Gallec, Galician, and Galego

The Galician language has a complex linguistic history and goes by several similar names. To understand the differences between Gallec, Galician, and Galego, it helps to know a bit about its origins.

Galician descended from Vulgar Latin, the colloquial form of Latin spoken in the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, the language evolved separately in the kingdoms of Galicia, Asturias, and Portugal. Galician and Portuguese developed into distinct Romance languages, while Asturian remained closer to Latin.

  • Gallec refers to the earliest form of the language spoken in Galicia dating back to the 9th century. It shares origins with Portuguese but developed independently.
  • Galician and Galego are the modern names for the language spoken today by about 3 million people, mainly in Galicia. Galician is the English name, while Galego is the native name in Galician.
  • There are some differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar between Galician and Gallec. Galician has been influenced by Spanish, while Gallec retains more words of Celtic and Germanic origin. However, they are largely mutually intelligible.
  • The Galician language was once banned under Franco’s regime in Spain but is now co-official with Spanish in Galicia. Efforts to preserve and promote Galego have led to its standardization in education, media, and government.

Whether you call it Gallec, Galician, or Galego, this Romance language remains an important part of Galicia’s cultural heritage. Its long and complex history is a testament to the resilience of its speakers in maintaining their linguistic identity. Learning about the differences between these terms helps in understanding the evolution of this language.

Learning to Speak Galician – Resources and Tips

So you want to learn Galician? That’s great! Galician is a beautiful Romance language spoken by around 3 million people, mainly in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain. The good news is there are many resources to help you learn.

Find Language Learning Apps and Online Courses

  • Duolingo and Memrise both offer free Galician language courses to help you learn basic greetings, questions, and common phrases. They use short lessons to help you start speaking right away.
  • Take online courses on Udemy, Babbel, or Busuu. These paid services provide more in-depth lessons and resources to become fluent in Galician.
  • Check your local library or community college for Galician language classes. In-person instruction with an experienced teacher is one of the best ways to learn.

Listen to Galician Radio, Music, and Podcasts

  • Tune into Galician radio stations like Radio Galega to immerse yourself in the spoken language. Even if you don’t understand it all, you’ll get used to the rhythm and accents.
  • Listen to traditional Galician music or modern artists like Xoel López, Ataque Escampe, or Mercedes Peón. Following along with the lyrics is a great way to expand your vocabulary.
  • Find Galician podcasts on a topic you’re interested in. Some options include Abe Rábade’s jazz podcast, Historia de Galicia, or Os Contos do Lume.

Watch Galician TV Shows and Movies

  • The show “Fariña” (Cocaine Coast) is available on Netflix with subtitles. It’s based on true events in 1980s Galicia.
  • Look for children’s shows, cartoons, documentaries or movies on YouTube and other streaming services. Turn on Galician subtitles to follow along.
  • Once you get more advanced, try watching without any subtitles. See how much you can understand! Challenge yourself to pick up on context and new words.

With practice and persistence, you’ll be speaking Galician fluently in no time. Boa sorte e ata logo! (Good luck and see you later!)


Interested in diving into the world of Galician? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about this fascinating Romance language spoken by around 3 million galician people in northwestern Spain.

Galician is a Romance language with a rich history and cultural significance. Spoken mainly in Galicia, it coexists alongside Spanish as an official language. With its roots dating back to the Middle Ages, Galician has experienced periods of decline and resurgence, making it an intriguing linguistic journey to explore.

Today, Galician is thriving despite challenges. It’s taught in schools, used in media, and promoted by the government. While not as widely spoken as Spanish, its close relationship with Portuguese offers unique learning opportunities. Plus, delving into Galician opens doors to understanding the vibrant culture, literature, and music of Galicia. Ready to embark on your Galician adventure? Let’s unravel its mysteries together!

FAQs About the Galician Language

Galician is a Romance language spoken by nearly 3 million people, mainly in the autonomous community of Galicia in northwestern Spain. If one is curious to delve deeper into this lesser-known language, below are several frequently asked questions along with their corresponding answers:

What language family does Galician belong to?

Galician is part of the Indo-European language family. More specifically, it is a West Iberian Romance language, closely related to Portuguese. Galician and Portuguese were once considered dialects of the same language.

Is Galician similar to Spanish?

Galician and Spanish are distinct languages, though they do share some vocabulary and grammatical features. Galician is more closely related to Portuguese, while Spanish originates from Latin. That said, most Galicians today are bilingual and speak both Galician and Spanish.

How many people speak Galician?

Galician is spoken by 2.8 million people, mainly in Galicia. It is recognized as an official language of Spain, along with Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and others. The vast majority of Galicians speak Galician as their first language.

What are some characteristics of the Galician language?

Some key features of Galician include:

  • It has seven vowel sounds: a, e, i, o, u, é, í. • Nouns have two genders: masculine and feminine. • Verbs are conjugated based on the subject (first, second, or third person) • The language uses articles, prepositions, and conjunctions similar to other Romance languages. • Popular Galician expressions include: “Bo día” (Good day), “Graciñas” (Thank you), and “Xa veño” (I’m coming).
  • The Galician alphabet has several letters with diacritics like á, é, í, ó, ú.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions about the Galician language! Let me know if you have any other questions.

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