Linguistic Skills

Linguistic skills measure the capacity of individuals to understand and express themselves, both in written and oral form. There are many generations in Galicia that finished school before Galician was established as a compulsory subject and they therefore did not receive standardized classes in Galician. We can thus think that the general linguistic skills of the population are deficient, especially with regard to writing. The fact is that linguistic skills are generally good in Galicia and their further development will only improve things.

Nearly all of the population understand, speak and read Galician. Half the population declares that they are unable to write fluently in Galician.

Nearly all youngsters can read quite well in Galician.

Evolution over the last few years shows that there is an increase in all skills.


1. Understand, Speak, Read and Write

Shown below are the results of effective skills of the Galicians; i.e., the responses from individuals who claim that they can read, speak, write and understand Galician “very well” or “quite well”.

This figure shows that the whole population can understand, speak and read in Galician. In the case of writing, we can see an important decline, as half the population declare themselves as incapable of writing well in Galician. In order to see the impact of the educational system on linguistic skills, we shall evaluate the ability to read Galician according to age.

The figure shows the results of “effective reading”, i.e., those individuals who think they can read “quite well” or “very well” in Galician. We selected persons that were older than 15 years because youngsters below this age would still not have finished compulsory education. As can be seen, reading skills increase as age decreases. The most outstanding piece of data is the fact that nearly all youngsters can read quite well in Galician.

2. Youngsters, the Best Readers in Galician

The linguistic skills of Galicians with regard to their abilities to write and understand vary slightly in each age group. While all sections confirm that nearly the entire population can understand Galician, however only 50% of the population can write well and independent of their age. There is a clear positive evolution in the capacity to read except in the last section (those who have not completed primary education).

3. A Positive Evolution

As regards the evolution of skills in the 1992-2003 period, we can see that there was a rise in all types of skills, especially in those with lower averages. The rise in written skills (reading and writing) are especially notable and cannot be explained solely by the incorporation of new individuals into the sample (who have been schooled in a system where the acquisition of Galician is standardized) but rather because of a general rise in competence in all age groups.

The individuals who claim to write “well” or “very well” in Galician are nearly double in number and reach an acceptable level (nearly half the population). In as far as reading is concerned, it is worth commenting that the information is even more remarkable over the eleven year period because the percentage of individuals who claim to speak well or very well and those who read with the same ease seems to level out, and this includes a large part of the population (85.6%).

4. Geographical Distribution of Linguistic Skills

The geographical distribution of linguistic skills shows an important disparity depending on whether the skills are oral or written. In the case of passive oral competence, i.e., the ability to understand spoken language, the data is so positive that there are hardly any differences over the territory, since nearly the entire population understands Galician. However, there is a slight fall in the urban areas of Vigo, Pontevedra and Ferrol, although such fall is almost imperceptible. With regard to the ability to write, the results do not show significant differences between areas and the results are very similar all over Galicia. The ability to speak according to areas gives the following results:

Although skills are generally good, we can observe five divisions, just like in the other cases. The highest skills in Galician would receive a score of “4”, and the lowest “1”. The areas in pale colors correspond to those areas where speaking skills are lower than 3.5 average, and these are the urban Atlantic areas of Vigo, Ferrol, A Coruña and Pontevedra. Speaking skills are slightly lower in the first two cities. The areas in the middle division are made up of the urban areas of Santiago and Ourense, and southern Lugo. In the next division we find the rest of the province of Ourense, western Pontevedra, the urban area of Lugo, northern Lugo and eastern A Coruña. The last category, is made up of the inland areas of the provinces of Pontevedra and the non-urban western coast of A Coruña, where the capacity to speak nears the highest value. As seen before, the capacity to read obtains a good score for the whole of Galicia. The distribution shows some interesting differences with regard to oral skills.

As we can see from the map, all urban areas, except the area of Pontevedra, have obtained high scores, where Santiago and Lugo, followed by A Coruña, have the highest scores. The remaining urban areas are located in the middle division, along with the area of eastern A Coruña. Inland Lugo and the rest of Ourense obtain the worst averages.