The Galician Language: A Beginner’s Guide

Born amidst striking landscapes in Spain’s north-western corner, the Galician people have long been guardians of a unique and vibrant cultural heritage. Their journey to preserve their identity has been interwoven with a language that carries the weight of history and the essence of their identity—the Galician language.

In the face of adversity, including the dark shadow of Francisco Franco’s regime and the ongoing language-dialect debate, Galician has persisted as a testament to the power of language in defining and preserving culture. Today, the Galician language stands tall as a unique and valuable language worth learning for cultural and professional reasons.

In this beginner’s guide, we delve into the origins, present state, and intriguing features of the Galician language.

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The Origins of the Galician Language

Like a secret whispered through time, the origins of the Galician language are a fascinating blend of history, culture, and the ebb and flow of human migration.

Ancient times

Picture ancient Celtic tribes roaming the Iberian Peninsula around 1,000 years before the Common Era. They brought with them a linguistic richness that laid the foundation for what we now know as Galician. And, as history’s tide surged and receded, the region was embraced by Romans, Visigoths, and even the Moors, each leaving their linguistic imprint like layers on a palimpsest.

The Middle Ages

Fast forward to the Middle Ages – a period where troubadours serenaded their way through courts and castles. Galician found its lyrical voice in poetry and music, mingling with the Romance languages of the time. This enchanting blend of Celtic roots and Romantic influences created a linguistic symphony that resonates to this day.

So, how did Galician manage to stand its ground amidst the language shuffle? Thanks to a steadfast sense of identity and a written tradition that emerged in the 13th century. Visionaries like King Alfonso X championed the Galician language, placing it side by side with Castilian in a monumental collection of medieval literature.

The age of exploration and beyond

Centuries later, amidst the maritime adventures, Galician navigators also played a pivotal role, infusing their language into the shores they encountered. Galician phrases found their way to far-off lands, whispered by sailors as they explored the mysteries of the New World.

The 19th century brought both challenges and triumphs for Galician. Industrialisation and urbanisation cast a shadow over rural roots, yet simultaneously sparked a cultural renaissance.

Since then, writers, thinkers, and artists championed the language, celebrating its uniqueness and lending it newfound literary vitality. However, as we will see in a minute, it has also faced struggles along the way.

A picture of Galicia

Where is the Galician Spoken Today?

Galician, also known as Gallego, is a language primarily spoken in the region of Galicia, which is located in the northwestern part of Spain. Galicia is an autonomous community with its own distinct culture, language, and administrative powers within Spain.

The Galician language is also spoken by the Galician diaspora in various parts of the world, particularly in countries with historical ties to Galicia, such as Portugal, Brazil, and other Latin American countries.

Despite the influence of the Spanish language, Galician remains an important part of the identity and cultural heritage of the region. Today, both Galician and Castilian Spanish have official status in Spain.

Why Was Galician Banned in the 1930s?

During the 1930s, Spain was under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Franco’s regime sought to establish a unified Spanish identity and centralise power, often at the expense of regional cultures, languages, and identities. This policy extended to languages such as Galician, Catalan, Basque, and others that were spoken in various regions of Spain.

In the case of Galician, Franco’s government implemented measures to suppress the use of the Galician language in public life, education, media, and administration. People who promoted or used Galician were often subject to censorship, discrimination, and even persecution.

After Franco’s death in 1975 and the subsequent transition to democracy, regional languages like Galician regained recognition and protection within the framework of Spain’s autonomous communities.

Is Galician a Spanish Dialect?

Galician is not a Spanish dialect; it is a distinct language in its own right. While both Galician and Spanish (Castilian) are Romance languages and share a common linguistic ancestry, they have evolved separately over centuries and have developed distinct linguistic features.

However, it can’t be denied that Galician and Spanish share many similarities. To an untrained eye, Galician and Spanish can look like two sides of the same coin.

Would you like to see for yourself how similar Galician and Spanish are? Here’s the definition of the word “flamenco” in both Galician and Spanish:


“Flamenco” é un xénero musical e artístico orixinario do sur de España, caracterizado pola súa intensidade emocional, canto expresivo, toque virtuoso da guitarra e baile enérxico.


“Flamenco” es un género musical y artístico originario del sur de España, caracterizado por su intensidad emocional, canto expresivo, toque virtuoso de la guitarra y baile enérgico.

What Are Some Interesting Features of the Galician Language?

Now that we’ve answered some common questions about Galician, let’s focus on the features and characteristics that make this language unique:

1. Gender-Based Article Agreement:

Similar to other Romance languages, Galician nouns are assigned grammatical gender (masculine or feminine), and the articles that accompany them change based on this gender. For masculine nouns, the word “the” can be “o” (singular) or “os” (plural), while for feminine nouns, you can use “a” (singular) or “as” (plural).

This gender agreement between articles and nouns is a distinctive feature of the language.

2. The Letter “X” Represents the “SH” Sound:

In Galician, the letter “X” is used to represent the “SH” sound /ʃ/. This sound is not
typically represented by the letter “X” in many other languages, including Spanish. Examples of words using this sound in Galician:

  • “xornal” (newspaper)
  • “xente” (people)
  • “maxia” (magic)

3. Post-Verbal Object Pronouns:

Unlike Spanish and some other Romance languages where object pronouns are placed before the verb, in Galician, they are attached to the end of the verb. This is called “proclitic” placement. For example:

  • “Díxome” = “He told me” (literally: said + me)
  • “Lesteches” = “I read them to you” (literally: read + them + to you)

What Are the Benefits of Learning the Galician Language?

A picture of a government building in Galicia

Learning Galician can offer valuable advantages to those who are proficient in the language:

1. Education and Research:

Teaching positions that require Galician language skills are available in schools and universities in the region. Additionally, research opportunities might arise in fields related to Galician language, literature, history, and cultural studies.

2. Cultural and Media Industries:

Galicia has a rich cultural scene, with literature, music, art, and film being important parts of its identity. Proficiency in Galician could open doors to roles in publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and other media-related industries. Being able to contribute to Galician-language media or cultural initiatives could provide a unique platform for your skills and ideas.

3. Translation and Localisation:

The demand for translation and localisation services in Galician is present, especially in industries such as tourism, marketing, and business. Companies aiming to target the Galician-speaking audience might require materials, websites, and documents translated into Galician for better engagement.

4. Community Engagement and NGOs:

Proficiency in Galician could be advantageous for individuals interested in community engagement, social work, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These organisations often work closely with local communities and may require employees or volunteers who can communicate effectively in Galician.

Learn the Galician Language Now

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced learner, studying Galician can open up many doors for both personal and professional growth.

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At Language Trainers, we offer a wide variety of tailor-made Galician language courses to suit your learning objectives and schedule. By working with native, qualified teachers who’ll design custom-built lessons around your interests and goals, you can be sure that you’re getting the best education possible.

If you’re looking for Galician classes with native Galician teachers, Language Trainers can help you find the perfect course. With our unique approach, you’ll be speaking Galician confidently in no time!

So what are you waiting for? Get started on your Galician learning journey with us today! Contact us now and one of our friendly staff will be in touch to help you find the perfect teacher.