Where in Spain do people speak Spanish the least?

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish language in Spain

MADRID – The Spanish Institute of Statistics has analysed the usage of the Spanish language in all autonomous communities and identified the areas where Spanish – or ‘Castellano’ – is spoken with the least proficiency. 

Spanish is one of the fastest-growing world languages, ranking among the top five languages globally in terms of the number of speakers, countries where it is an official language and geographic distribution. The language boasts 534 million speakers (both native and non-native) after English, Mandarin, and Hindi. After Spanish, French occupies the fifth position. When considering only the number of native speakers, Spain ranks second after Mandarin. 

Diversity of languages within Spain 

Within Spain, there is also a rich diversity of languages. In addition to Spanish as the official national language, there are four official regional or co-official languages: Catalan, Basque, Galician, and Aranese. As a result, thousands of children learn to speak two languages from a very young age, and eventually, they become polyglots as they have the opportunity to learn English or French in school, in addition to Spanish or the co-official language. 

The INE’s research, therefore, draws attention because it focuses on the use and proficiency of the different languages spoken in Spain. One of the conclusions is that Spanish is not equally well-spoken throughout the country. 

Which are the regions where Spanish is spoken with the least proficiency? 

The INE study analysed the proper use of Spanish in each of the Autonomous Communities. In this regard, there is a very high percentage of the population that speaks it without any problem because it is their mother tongue. Consequently, no region falls below 90% proficiency in Castellano. However, certain areas score lower than others. 

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

Cantabria and Asturias are the regions that top the list as the areas where Spanish is spoken most proficiently. In Cantabria, 98.2% of the population speaks it perfectly, while in the Principality of Asturias, the percentage rises to 98.4%. A curious fact about Asturias is that only 2.8% of the inhabitants speak the native language, Asturian. 

On the other hand, the regions with lower percentages of Spanish proficiency are Murcia, at 93.5%, and Melilla, at 93.4%. In Murcia, it is striking that a high percentage of the population speaks English, with no less than 12.5% of the population. This is one of the highest percentages in the country. 

Which co-official language is the most widely spoken? 

Additionally, the INE study also addresses a commonly asked question about the co-official languages in Spain: which language is the most widely spoken? While many may assume Catalan is the answer, that is not correct. Galician is the most widely spoken co-official language in Spain, with 83.1% of the community speaking it, while in Catalonia, only 75% do. 

Also read: Useful phrases for Expats in Spain – a beginners guide to Spanish

You may also like