There are a variety of languages spoken in Spain and also a number of dialects of these languages. Most people in Spain can speak Castilian Spanish; Castilian is the official language of the country and so is used throughout Spain. But, although the official language, Castilian is not the only language that has “official” status. These other “co-official” languages are Euskara, Catalan and Galician. These co-official languages are used in different regions (“Comunidades Autónomas”) of Spain.
Added to this, many of Spain’s official languages themselves have different derived dialects.
Catalan is called a romantic language as it has been heavily influenced by Latin. In Spain, the Catalan langiage and its derivatives are principally spoken in the regions of the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia however it is also used in some parts of Aragon and Murcia.
Catalan became recognized in early Spain when it began to blossom. It soon became considered as a primary language. It has passed in and out of favor within the royal court of Spain through a variety, most notably the dictator Francisco Franco. Since Franco’s death in the 1970s Catalan has been reinstated as one of the official languages of Spain. It should be remembered also that this language is not exclusively “Spanish” as it is also spoken in France and Italy.
Euskara is the official language of the Spanish Basque region. Having said this, it is being used in other parts of Spain due to its co-official status. The Basque language is a very unusual language in that nobody is entirely sure where it has come from as it is so different from any other language in the region, and indeed the world. There have been several theories on the history of Euskara, but the origin is still unknown today. Euskara is an extremely distinctive language as it is one of a kind; historians truly do not have any clues as to how it was formed. The Basque language is spoken by approximately 500,000 basque natives and is is the most unique language in Spain.
The third co-official language is Gallego (Galician) spoken in the region of Galicia situated in northern Spain. Like Catalan, Gallego is a romantic language, however it has a much different sound to Catalan. At one time Gallego and Portuguese were the same language (the historic Kingdom of Galicia once included the territory of Portugal). Although different languages today, Portuguese and Gallego are related by what is called a dialect continuum (i.e. they are very similar having come from the same language root).
There are a few areas in Spain where dialects are used by a relative handful of people; these “languages” are fighting to survive and are disappearing rapidly. Most of the regions have dialects, and although the overwhelming majority of people can speak Spanish, many choose to use their own dialect. Consequently a visitor to Spain may speak to several different people and hear several completely different languages, regardless of where they are in Spain! This type of diversity has been discussed through the years as the people of each region are proud of its language and culture.
As previously mentioned, the official language of Spain is Castilian. Of course many other European languages are now used in certain areas of Spain as various peoples have migrated to Spain’s warmer southern climes. And so it is not unusual that you will not only hear Castilian, Catalan, Gallego and Euskara (depending of course on where you are) but you may also hear French, Italian, German and English.