Check Out Galician

Galician is a language similar to Portuguese that is spoken in Spain by about 3.5 million speakers. Speakers are located in the far northwest of Spain in the region of Galicia. Galicia is one of four languages other than Castilian that are recognized by Spain. The other three are Basque, Catalan and Aranese (Occitan). Galician is having problems lately, as a lot of speakers in urban areas are not speaking it anymore, and much of the speaker base is located in rural areas.
Nevertheless, it is still widely spoken outside of large cities, even by young people. There have been some problems setting up Galician-medium schools, as the Spanish state doesn’t seem to want to pay for it. The state of Galicia has not done a very good job of preserving the language. For instance, most of the Galician TV stations are in Castillian.
Despite all of this, Galician is still doing pretty well and should be secure for the remainder of the 21st Century.
Galician is related to Portuguese, but Portuguese speakers are very ethnocentric and crazy about their language, and they have adopted the notion that all dialects of Portuguese can understand each other. This is not the case, as there are several languages under the Portuguese rubric, and even saying that Brazilian and European Portuguese are the same language is getting harder and harder of a case to make.
A group called “Reintegrationists” insists that Galician is a dialect of Portuguese, but this does not seem to be the case. For one thing, Portuguese and Galician are not really fully intelligible. So it looks like the best case is to split Galician off as a separate language closely related to Portuguese.
As long as we are talking about dialects, it really ought to be the other way around – Portuguese as a dialect of Galician. Galician is actually the original language of the area and it preserves the old form of Portuguese-Galician best of all. Portuguese is best seen as a Galician dialect that drifted further and further away from the original Galician language. Galicia has been a part of Spain for a good 600 years or so, and in this period, Galician and Portuguese have drifted further apart.
Galician is now properly seen as a language closely related to Portuguese that has been heavily influenced by Castillian. If you will, a language partway between Portuguese and Castillian. So if you speak Spanish, Galician should be more accessible to you than Portuguese. What is interesting is that Galician and Portuguese have drifted so far apart that Spanish speakers say that they understand Galician better than Portuguese speakers do. This is doubtless due to the heavy Spanish influence on Galician.
In recent times, the Castillian influence has only increased. A Galician group based in Spain has formed to oppose the influence of the Reintegrationists, who are proposing a common writing system for both Galician and Portuguese. The Galician purists propose a purified Galician written language that emphasizes Galician’s differences with Portuguese. They have their work cut out for them.
The video above is from Galician TV. On Galician TV a new form of Galician has emerged that is closer to Castillian than the form typically spoken on the Galician street. Many Castillian speakers say they can understand Galician TV pretty well, but even they have a hard time understanding street Galician. In the video, the female broadcaster in particular is speaking a heavily Castillianized form of Galician. The male broadcaster’s dialect is less so.
They are interviewing a man who represents the Reintegrationist group in Galicia. He is speaking a much more “street” form of Galician and was harder for me to understand. I understood the woman best of all, then the male broadcaster and last the man being interviewed. I understand Spanish pretty well.
If you understand Spanish, you should be able to understand some of the video above, but you probably won’t fully understand it.

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4 thoughts on “Check Out Galician”

  1. My mom’s Galician, and this past weekend, when she was at my house, she spoke for a while with my neighbor, who’s from Portugal. They seemed to understand each other well enough, though I think he speaks some Castilian as well, which I’m sure helped him to understand her. But my mother has a much more difficult time trying to speak to my wife, who’s from Brazil. In fact, they gave up trying to speak Portuguese altogether after about five minutes, and only ever speak English with one another now. So there definitely appears to be quite a gulf between Brazilian and European Portuguese, though the Brazilians and Portuguese in my town (there are lots) seem to be able to talk to each other.

  2. Remember too Hoberto, that Galicia(n) originally means Gaullic — “Keltic” or “Celtic” — in other words.

  3. I have little regard for the “minority language movement” as a whole, especially in the case of Iberian Romance languages. A vernacular stranded in the Pyrenees or the Cantabrian Mountain should not be elevated to the status of a full fledged language just because it’s associated to an ancient Iberian Kingdom. The speech of rural people in traditionally “Castilian” areas of central Spain can be as undescipherable as these “minority languages”, but no one makes of this an excuse for fabricating a new useless pseudo-language. I would better strive for full bilingual education in Spanish and Portuguese in all Iberian speaking countries, as a first step for future unification of both languages.

    1. Interesante conversación. Qué pena que no la haya visto en su día.
      Vivo en Galicia, pero nací en Madrid y hablo castellano y también gallego.
      En galicia la gente de la calle lo que habla es castrapo. Una jerga con estructura sintáctica del gallego, usando palabras castellanas y con entonación gallega. Por eso, dice el artículista, la gente castellana entiende al de la televisión pero no entiende a la gente de la calle.
      Cualquier gallego entiende el portugués escrito, pero la fonética del portugués se aparta mucho del gallego y del castellano y lo que entiende por escrito no lo entiende si lo oye.
      El gallego es un idioma practicamente muerto, porque con la televisión gallega lo que han conseguido es hacer un gallego con una estructura castellana usando ciertas palabras gallegas y con entonación castellana.
      Los jovenes no quieren hablar gallego, solo lo habán los que van poco a la escuela, abandonan el sistema educativo, que curiosamente es donde se enseña. Entre marineros, labradores y gente de oficios bajos es donde se habla más el castrapo, porque el gallego de le TV tampoco lo habla nadie. Y cuando la gente que suele hablar castrapo habla castellano es penoso oirles.
      Incluso los que hablan bien castellano cometen un sin fin de faltas tanto de pronunciación como de sintaxis y de léxico. Los gallegos son lo que hasta ahora hablan peor el castellano en España. En poco tiempo supongo que les superarán los catalanes que hablarán castellano como lo puede hacer un japonés medio.
      Lo malo es que unos cuantos iluminados utilicen la lengua como arma política, y pretendan, como en Cataluña, erradicar el castellano en aras de conseguir un país que nunca existió. Mira el ejemplo tonto de los integracionistas gallegos, quiren pasar de tener una lengua reconocida en España a tener un dialecto del portugués, no reconocido ni por los portugueses.
      Es sencillamenente, lo que solemos decir: joder por joder.
      Podría escribirlo en inglés pero me es más facil hacerlo en español
      Saludos a todos.

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