Language skills

Language skills are indicated by the ability to understand and use a language, both orally and in writing. In Galicia there are many people who attended school before the introduction of the Galician language as a compulsory subject in the syllabus, and consequently they did not attend Galician language lessons at school. Therefore, it can be argued that the level of Galician language skills is poor, particularly in writing, but in general mastery of this language has improved in all the skills.

Most of the population can understand, speak and read Galician, whereas around 38% of people say they do not know how to write it.

Almost all the younger population can read Galician properly.

An improvement in all skills can be seen in Galician in recent years.


1. Listening comprehension and speaking

The chart below shows that a vast majority of the population can understand Galician (72.3%). However, for other language skills the proportion is lower in terms of speaking (57.6%), reading (52.9%) and above all writing, since 13.2% of the population say they are not able to write in Galician, and 24.7% have a low command of this skill.

The table below shows how age, education level or population size can influence the population’s command of speaking skills. Firstly, as regards age, people between 30 and 39 years old (that is, those who received formal schooling in Galician for the first time) have an advanced level in this language skill (61.1%), as well as those with higher education qualifications (63.3%). Secondly, looking at the population size, people who say they have an advanced level in speaking usually live in rural areas, in villages of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants (67.2%) or in medium-sized towns of between 20,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. In contrast, it is worth emphasizing the significant proportion of people in towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants who say they are not be able to speak Galician (20.4%).

When considering the ways in which people have learned to speak Galician, it becomes clear that almost the entire population did so within the family (83.4%), while 48.5% of the population learned the language at school, as shown in the graph below.

The map below depicts the geographical areas where almost the entire population can speak Galician fluently, with percentages approaching 99% of the population: Costa da Morte, A Barbanza-Noia, eastern Lugo and south-eastern A Coruña. In contrast, the urban areas of Ferrol, A Coruña, Pontevedra and Vigo show significantly lower proportions.

2. Reading comprehension and writing

As for reading comprehension, i.e. the ability to understand written texts in Galician, almost 60% of the population say they have an advanced level of comprehension and no more than 2.7% affirm they are not be able to understand it, as shown in the graph below.

Differences are observed in terms of the level of reading comprehension achieved, depending on the province in which speakers live. The western provinces, that is, A Coruña and Pontevedra, have the highest proportions of people that can understand written texts in Galician, in both cases exceeding 50% of the population. At the other end of the scale, the inland provinces of Lugo and Ourense have the highest percentages of people who say they cannot read texts in Galician (19.5% and 22.2% respectively).

In general, reading proficiency in Galician is quite high in all geographical areas, with percentages ranging from 63.6% in Carballiño-Ribeiro to 97.3% in north-eastern Pontevedra, as shown in the map below. Therefore, mastery of this skill is more common among people living not only in urban and semi-urban areas such as Santiago, A Coruña and Pontevedra, but also in other areas such as A Barbanza-Noia, with 87.8% of the population.

Reading proficiency in Galician is also be influenced by age. Indeed, in Galicia as a whole, it is the youngest people who show the greatest command of reading comprehension in the language, reaching up to 67% of people aged between 30 and 49.

Finally, as far as writing skills in Galician are concerned, a high proportion of people (62%) attained an advanced level, whereas 13.2% of the population say they cannot write in the language, and 24.7% have an elementary level of competence.

The means by which the population learned to write in Galician are mainly through school (59%) and the family (49.5%). Other ways of learning, such as with friends, at work or self-taught are considerably less common.

The way of learning writing skills in Galician is closely related to age, since it is the youngest learners who are generally proficient in writing in this language. As the graph below illustrates, very few differences can be found in the two youngest age groups of the population. These are people that received academic education in the language at school and therefore they are proficient in writing it to a certain extent. The most striking result is found among people aged 50 and over, since 59.3% of them say they have an elementary or beginner’s level in writing.

3. Evolution of language skills

As regards the evolution of language skills in Galician between 2003 and 2018, the only skill that improved slightly is writing, whereas speaking dropped by 10%.