• 2019.06.04
  • Spain’s Official Languages
Please stay with me as I follow my last post with further discussion about language.
There is no mention of an official language in the Japanese constitution. It’s self-evident that Japanese is the national language universally used in every nook and cranny across the whole country, in the north and the south, in the east and the west, so there would be no need to deliberately stipulate it in law.

But things are different in Spain.
Official languages are mentioned in Section 3 of the Preliminary Part of the Constitution of Spain, enacted and promulgated in 1978.
1. Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it.
2. The other Spanish languages shall also be official in the respective Self-governing Communities in accordance with their Statutes.
3. The wealth of the different linguistic forms of Spain is a cultural heritage which shall be especially respected and protected.

Currently in Spain, the provisions of Clause 2 mean the following four Spanish languages are used as official languages as stipulated in the statutes of the respective autonomous communities, apart from Castilian, the official language of the entire country.

〇 Catalan or Valencian (català or valencià): Used in Catalonia (capital: Barcelona) and the neighboring autonomous community of Valencia.

〇 Aranese (aranés): Used in the province of Lleida and the Aran Valley, near the middle of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s one of the three official languages of Catalonia.

〇 Galician (galego): The language of Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain.

〇 Basque (euskera): The language of the Basque Country, which has recently been attracting attention for its excellent food.

“Spanish” and “Castilian” both refer to the same language, yet the word for the Spanish language recognized as Spain’s official language above is not written “español” (“Spanish”) but “castellano” (“Castilian”).

This is a map of the official languages on the Iberian Peninsula. It shows there are seven official languages on the Peninsula in total including Portuguese in Portugal and English on the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. Basque in the northwest and Catalan in the northeast are also used across the border in France.

With this many languages in Spain and the Iberian Peninsula alone, it is not hard to imagine the linguistic complexity of the European Union, an assembly of 28 countries. In accordance with the EU’s foundational principle of unity in diversity, each member nation may nominate only one official language for use as an official language of the EU to represent their country, so it currently uses 24 languages*.

It seems that the number of employees engaged in translation of official documents and interpreting at meetings required for all 24 languages is over 5,000. When you think about the actual work involved in translating from Estonian to Irish, or simultaneous interpreting of Maltese and Latvian, it must be like an unbelievably huge language trading conglomerate. Could the menus in the staff restaurants and cafeteria at EU headquarters in Brussels possibly be written in 24 languages? Surely not…

I would guess each member nation’s official language is translated and interpreted via English, the de facto official language of many international organizations and the language used by the largest number of people in the most regions around the world. The problem with that is that when the UK — the sole member nation with English as its official language — leaves the EU, English will no longer be an official EU language. French and German both function as working languages, but surely the impact from eliminating English can’t be overestimated.

* The number of member nations is 28, but multiple nations applied to have French, Dutch, German, or Greek as their official language, so the number of languages is 24. By the way, here is how you write “The European Union” in the 24 languages [plus Japanese].

:欧州連合 (Oshu Rengo)
:An tAontas Eorpach
:Den Europæiske Union
:L’Unione europea
:Die Europäische Union
:The European Union
:Az Európai Unió
:Euroopa Liit
:Euroopan unioni
:De Europese Unie
:L’Union européenne
:Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση
:Европейският съюз
:Europska unija
:Unia Europejska
:Europeiska unionen
:A União Europeia
:La Unión europea
:L-Unjoni Ewropea
:Európska únia
:Eiropas Savienība
:Evropska unija
:Europos Sąjunga
:Evropská unie
:Uniunea Europeană


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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