Galician is a Romance language spoken by about 3 million people in Galicia,
in the north-west corner of Spain. Galician is more or less mutually intelligible
with Portuguese but uses Spanish spelling conventions. In fact, whether Galician and
Portuguese are separate languages or dialects of the same language, is a
question that has been hotly debated for decades, and is loaded with political
and cultural implications.
Galician emerged as a standardised literary language during the 19th
century when there was a revival (rexurdimento) in the language and
culture of Galicia. One person who was particularly active in the revival
movement was Frei Martín Sarmiento. The publication in 1863 of
Rosalía de Castro's poem Cantares Gallegos, which was
written entirely in Galician, marked the beginning of the revival in the
fortunes of Galician.
During early 20th century, an organisation known as the Irmandades da
Fala (Brotherhoods of the Language) was set up to defend, promote and
dignify the Galician language and a number of Galician language
journals began to appear. An attempt in the 1930s to give autonomy to
Galicia and official status to Galician was never promulgated due to
the Civil War (1936-1939), and speaking of Galician in public was
banned during Franco's dictatorship (1939-1975).
Galician gained official status in 1978 and is recognised as one of Spain's
five official languages (lenguas españolas), along with Spanish (Castilian),
Catalan, Basque and Aranese. Primary and secondary schools in Galicia
teach bilingually in Galician and Spanish, and Galician is the
main medium of instruction in universities in Galicia.
Some one thousand or so books are published in Galician each year and
there is a Galician TV channel, established in 1985, a Galician radio station (set
up in 1996), and a daily Galician language newspaper, O Correo Galego.
In cities in Galicia more Spanish than Galician tends to be spoken, however
Galician is widely-spoken in rural areas.
The letters J (iota), K (ca), W (uve dobre) and Y (i grego) are also used but
only in loan words. There are also six digraphs: CH, GU, LL, NH, QU and RR. QU and
GU are used only before the vowels E and I.
Sample text in Galician
Tódolos seres humanos nacen libres e iguais en dignidade e dereitos e,
dotados como están de razón e conciencia, díbense comportar
fraternalmente uns cos outros.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)