Galician is derived from the Latin spoken in the northwest of Hispania; as a Romance language it is part of the same family as Castilian (Spanish), Catalan, French, Italian and other Romance languages. It is a language closely related to Portuguese, both of which had virtually the same history until the middle of the 16th century. Despite a divergent history since the Middle Ages, even today Galician and Portuguese are mutually intelligible almost without effort.
Galician is spoken in the Autonomous Community of Galicia (Spain), located in the northwest of the Iberian peninsula, bordered by the provinces of Asturias, León and Zamora. It is also spoken by emigrant communities in Latin America (above all in Argentina and Uruguay), Europe (especially in Germany, Switzerland and France) and Spain (mostly in Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque Country). In all, around two and a half million people speak it, being the first language of around two million of these, who use it regularly in their daily lives.
Two languages are spoken in Galicia; Galician (the land’s own language) and Castilian (or Spanish, spoken all over Spain). Historically, Castilian was the dominant social and cultural language, while Galician was marginalized. Today, Galician is recognized with the status of official language of Galicia (along with Castilian), and is present in the educational system, the mass media and public life. It is the first language of the majority of the inhabitants of Galicia. It is also the most used in daily life.
Although it had a brilliant literary past in the Middle Ages, Galician was reduced to a spoken language for centuries. In the 19th century, a shining poetic cultivation began, in the early 20th century an important literary production was developed and in the last few decades an important editorial (1,500 new titles in Galician each year) and audiovisual production has grown up. Galician also has a notable presence on the internet.
The study of Galician language and literature is compulsory in Galicia in all levels of pre-university education. The three Galician universities (A Coruña, Santiago and Vigo) offer degrees in Galician language and literature. In some European and American universities, there are also chairs and departments of Galician studies.