“Usual language” is the one used regularly by people in their everyday lives or in their relationships with their closest circles. The usual language is gradually changing over time and this change partly depends on the age and location where people live. Differences can also be found depending on the social use of the language.
In general, the younger the speaker, the greater is the proportion of monolingual Castilian speakers and the smaller is the number of monolingual Galician speakers.
Half of the Galician population regularly speaks only or mainly Galician.
In general, the younger the population, the higher the proportion of monolingual Spanish speakers and the lower the proportion of monolingual Galician speakers.
Galician is more widely spoken in rural areas than in urban areas.
1. The use of languages in Galicia
According to the Galician Statistics Institute, in Galicia almost a third of the population speak Galician on a regular basis and less than a quarter only speak Spanish. Bilinguals account for 44.7% of the population, with Spanish speakers outnumbering those speaking Galician, whereas over half the population speak only Galician or more Galician than Spanish.
The map below shows data about the use of languages in Galicia by geographical area. The areas with the largest shares of people speaking Galician more often than Spanish are south-eastern Coruña, Costa da Morte and eastern Lugo, with 99.1%, 92.4% and 88.5% respectively. Urban areas, however, and particularly Vigo, have seen a decline in the percentage of people who always or predominantly speak Galician. These figures imply that Galician language is more commonly used in rural areas than in metropolitan areas.
As regards the largest cities in Galicia, Lugo is the town with the highest proportion of Galician speakers (21.3%) while Vigo has the lowest (3.9%). Ferrol is the town with the highest proportion of Spanish speakers, with over 50% of its population. Therefore, the linguistic status of the big cities can be described as bilingualism, but with a predominance of Spanish over Galician.
Age has a significant influence on language use, with the population aged 65 and over—accounting for almost half the population—who say they only speak Galician. The younger the population is, the higher the percentage of Spanish speakers recorded. Thus, 73.9% of the population aged between 5 and 14, and 62.7% of the population aged between 15 and 29, speak only Spanish or more Spanish than Galician. The age group in which the least differences are found is the population between 30 and 49, though their use of Spanish is still predominant.
The next graph shows the evolution in the use of the habitual language between 2003 and 2018. On the one hand, the share of monolingual Galician speakers remained steady after the drop occurring in 2008, while the number of bilingual people that speak more Spanish than Galician fluctuated. On the other hand, the percentage of people who speak more Spanish than Galician rose slightly, while those who only speak Spanish grew over this period, despite the decline between 2013 and 2018.
2. Social use of Galician
Social use of language refers to interpersonal communication outside the family sphere. The graph below illustrates data on the habitual use of Galician, Spanish or both languages according to the social status of the interlocutors. As a preliminary conclusion, it can be affirmed that Galician is used to a greater extent in personal life situations such as with friends, with whom 34.1% of the population always speak in Galician. The higher the social status of the conversation partner, the more common the use of Spanish, particularly with teachers (39.4%), doctors (34.1%) and banking staff (34.0%)
The use of a language in a social context depends to a large extent on the speaker’s mother tongue, as well as on the social status of their conversation partner. The table below lists data on the social use of Galician by native speakers. In this case, more than half of native Galician speakers continue to use it in all social contexts, though they tend to use it predominantly with friends.
Age determines the use of a language in a social context, as shown in the table below. More than half of young people only speak Spanish with their friends, while 52.2% of those over 65 only speak Galician with them. However, the latter tend to speak more Spanish than Galician when talking to doctors, administrative or banking staff, whereas young people who speak Galician tend to use it similarly in all social contexts.