Language Attitudes

Language attitudes are opinions, ideas and prejudices that speakers have with respect to a language. For example, it is often said that in order to learn a language, it often helps to have a positive attitude towards that language. Galician was traditionally considered to be an unsuitable language for certain things, or that it should not be taught to children. Over the years, attitudes have changed, and it is now harder to find openly hostile expressions towards Galician.

In general, Galicians have a positive attitude towards their language, especially the youth.

The vast majority (72%) thinks that children should be taught both languages and 21.4% think that they should only be spoken to in Galician.

Some studies reveal that Galician, and language in general, plays a discrete role in the identity of young people.


1. In General, Positive Attitudes towards Galician

The main source of information when talking about the language attitudes of the Galicians is again the Mapa Sociolingüístico de Galicia (Sociolinguistic Map of Galicia). A “general language attitude” was calculated using complicated methods, and involved asking a series of questions on aspects of identity, usefulness and prejudices that the interviewees related with Galician. The result was very positive and we can assert that Galicians, in general, and especially the youth, have a positive attitude towards their language.

In order to illustrate this situation in greater detail, we shall look into the answers to some specific questions. For example, in a situation where two languages coexist (like in Galicia), it is useful to know which of the two languages is considered as more useful. In this study, interviewees were asked if they thought that Castilian was more, less or just as useful as Galician. The result was that 57.3% of the sample thought that it was just as useful, although 31.3% thought that Castilian was more useful.

They were also asked which language should be spoken by Galicians. The results are as follows:

The majority of Galicians think they should speak Galician, and this is followed by others who think that they should speak both languages (40%). Those who think they should only speak Castilian are a very small minority.

Another positive opinion is expressed by speakers when asked in what language they should speak to their children, where a huge majority (72%) thinks that they should learn both languages and 21.4% think that they should only be spoken to in Galician. Those who opted for only Castilian are scarce. Furthermore, future influential sectors (the middle and upper-middle classes, city inhabitants, and young people) mostly opted for teaching both languages to children.

2. A Closer Look into what Young People Think

Against this positive backdrop, other studies have asked why Galician is losing speakers, especially young people, when there are such positive attitudes towards the language. Thus, the Real Academia Galega, which had drawn up the Mapa Sociolingüístico de Galicia (Sociolinguistic Map of Galicia), carried out an in-depth study, without the use of questionnaires, and the outcome was quite interesting. For example, it was shown that amongst young people, especially those who normally speak Castilian, there were more negative attitudes than were expected. The results show that Galician, and language in general, plays a discrete role in the identity of young people, and those who changed their first language were viewed negatively. The results also showed that people generally said that they had worse linguistic skills in Galician than was the case and that there were widespread prejudices attributing negative stereotypes to Galician speakers. However, the study also found positive aspects, such as an ideology that looked favorably on linguistic diversity and multilingualism, and confirmed an improvement in the social prestige of Galician.