The Languages of Spain

The first language that springs to mind when one thinks of Spain is – not surprisingly – Castilian Spanish, the country’s official language. However, there are actually a number of other languages and dialects spoken there, a few of which have attainted co-official status in certain regions: Catalan/Valencian, Basque, Galician, and Aranese.

Here’s a brief snapshot of some of the languages spoken in Spain.

Castilian Spanish

Castilian Spanish – so named for its roots in the region of Castile – emerged from Spain’s many regional languages and dialects to become the primary language of the nation. Castilian Spanish was later brought to the New World through the colonization efforts of the Spanish, where the language enjoyed widespread adoption throughout the Americas.


Catalan, a Romance language spoken in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, currently boasts some 12 million speakers. Catalan has achieved broad usage as an everyday language in these areas. The language has become the medium of instruction in a number of schools, and it’s utilized to a large extent in government administration and the media. The version of the language spoken in the Community of Valencia is known as Valencian. Though some Valencians contest that their language is separate from Catalan, the majority of linguists consider it a dialect.


Spoken by approximately three million people in the northwest corner of Spain, Galician shares many linguistic features with Portuguese. The two languages are more or less mutually intelligible, but Galician relies on Spanish orthographic conventions. In fact, scholars have been debating for some time as to whether Galician and Portuguese are actually two distinct languages or just dialects of the same language.


Linguists consider the Basque language, spoken in the north of Spain in Basque Country, a language isolate (i.e. a language with no known linguistic relationship to another language). As such, Basque shares virtually zero mutual intelligibility with Castilian Spanish and the other languages of Spain, which all belong to the Romance language family.


Aranese – a language spoken in the Aran Valley of Catalonia in northeastern Spain – shares co-official status with Catalan in that region. Approximately 90% of those living in the Aran Valley can understand Aranese, and some 65% of inhabitants can speak the language.

Read Differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish.

Survey Finds Hispanics Not Connecting with American Companies

A recent survey conducted for management consulting firm Garcia Trujillo LLC found that 64.7% of U.S. Hispanics would show greater loyalty to companies that establish strong, visible ties to the Latino community, while over 66% indicate that they would be more likely to purchase products and services from such companies. Although survey respondents are interested in seeing companies create or tailor products and services to make them more culturally relevant to Hispanics, characteristics such as a greater number of Latinos in important corporate management roles and more community involvement rank much higher in importance for consumers.

Findings from the study include:

  • Almost 42% of Hispanic consumers think that American companies have little respect for them as customers.
  • 94% feel that products or brands in the U.S. should be represented by Spanish-speaking spokespersons in marketing and informational campaigns.
  • 15.5% want to see products and services developed specifically for Hispanics.
  • Over 60% think Latino workers face major obstacles to climb the corporate ladder. Language (almost 60%) and a college degree (21.7%) were cited as the biggest hurdles to advancement.
  • 60% think companies show commitment to their Latino employees, yet survey respondents estimated that less than 10% of leadership positions in U.S. companies are filled by Hispanics.

Sol Trujillo, chairman of Garcia Trujillo, notes: “This data demonstrates the strategic opportunities for companies and brands to connect with Latinos in meaningful ways.” With the Hispanic population in the United States growing at breakneck pace, American corporations would be wise to start wooing this segment of the market sooner rather than later.

For a copy of the full study, visit

Digital Marketing Is Essential in Building Brands With Hispanic Consumers

A new digital marketing study conducted by comScore and commissioned by Terra reveals that Hispanics are the ideal online consumers. The stunning results of the Terra comScore Ad Value Research Study show a full spectrum of engagement by Hispanics across multiple digital platforms including new data about how marketing initiatives positively influence brand perception. It also shows how Hispanics are in most instances more active in a wide variety of online activities and more receptive to new technology than non-Hispanics. The research also re-affirms that the Internet is the main media source of information for Hispanics when researching information about any service or product and goes even further by including an analysis of online engagement by category known as cognographics.

Fernando Rodriguez, CEO of Terra, said: “This study breaks ground on several fronts with new information on the impact Internet advertising has in building a brand in the Hispanic market. We are excited to share the in-depth results with our clients in order to provide insight as to how better reach the Hispanic consumer online,” added Rodriguez.

A key finding which represents a great opportunity for marketers is that if spoken to and reached with culturally relevant messaging in English and Spanish, Hispanics will react positively to brands online more so than non-Hispanics. While non-Hispanics may tend to look at interactive advertising as intrusive, Hispanics seem to be appreciative of the brands that are trying to reach out to them.

For example, Hispanics are more responsive to targeted ads with 37% saying they would likely respond to them vs. 30% for non-Hispanics. 35% of Hispanics vs. 27% of non-Hispanics said they are more open to advertising on sites where they read or contribute user generated comments. 37% of Hispanics vs. 25% of non-Hispanics enjoy the interactivity of online video ads, and the ability of obtaining additional information which is unavailable through a traditional TV ad. Furthermore, 36% of Hispanics vs. 24% non-Hispanics claim that Internet advertising has motivated them to visit a retail establishment while 35% of Hispanics vs. 25% of non-Hispanics are likely to attend movies based on their online campaigns.

The study also shows Hispanics are more open and willing to explore new technology presumably to stay up to speed with trends. In addition, these initiatives are likely to enhance their perception of the brand with 60% of Hispanics vs. 42% of non-Hispanics saying that they react positively to I-Pad demonstrations, virtual shoppers, mobile coupons, live streamings and others.

Hispanics are as engaged in social media as non-Hispanics; however they are more receptive to receiving updates for offline activities through mobile text alerts, Twitter feeds and Facebook. These include shopping for large retail items, and looking for entertainment information such as movies, concerts, events and places to eat. They are also more likely to visit a brand’s fan page and to follow Twitter updates from artists. Hispanics also show a higher rate of participation than non-Hispanics in numerous social media activities.

Use of Social Networks Hispanic
Viewed a live stream 24% 18%
Posted ratings and reviews 26% 16%
Searched for a job 22% 12%
Purchased a product due to a recommendation 18% 12%
Sought out customer support for a product/service 17% 7%
Sold a product through a social networking posting 11% 6%
Found a new job 12% 4%

With 30 million Hispanics online, or 60% of the population, and a continued trend showing more use of the most advanced features such as video and social media, the study shows that the digital divide is now becoming a thing of the past as Hispanics are at the forefront of embracing Internet and Technology.

A total of 2,300 surveys were completed between September 13 through October 18, 2010. The nationally representative sample was recruited from comScore’s online panel. All participants reside in the USA and are aged 13+ years. The data were weighted to national online targets for age, gender, household income, region of residence, and language preference (Hispanic only). The margin of error (95% confidence level) for a sample of this size is +/- 2.04 percentage points.

Source: Terra

Read our article 2010 U.S. Census Data Reveals Continued Growth of Hispanic Population

Reach out to the Hispanic Community with a Spanish Translation.

The Spanish Language in Brazil

The popularity of Spanish as a foreign language continues to grow in Brazil, the only Portuguese-speaking nation on a continent dominated by Spanish. Brazil shares a border with seven Spanish-speaking countries, and it conducts a substantial amount of trade with countries where Spanish is spoken (1/4 of exports and 1/5 of imports).

A significant number of non-Brazilian Spanish speakers, estimated at about 1 million people, call the nation home, mostly as the result of immigration from surrounding countries. Sephardic Jews – who speak both Ladino and Spanish – settled in Brazil and now compose a small portion of the country’s Spanish-speaking peoples.

With an eye toward more fully integrating Brazil with its Spanish-speaking neighbors and partners in the South American trade bloc Mercosur, the Brazilian Congress passed an education bill in 2005 requiring all secondary schools to offer Spanish as a second language. This legislation spurred an increase in resources dedicated to Spanish, and the number of Brazilian students studying español has increased from one million to five million in a period of just five years. A recent agreement between Spain’s Cervantes Institute, an organization devoted to promoting the Spanish language worldwide, and the Brazilian Ministry of Education provides for the training of 26,000 Spanish teachers to manage the increased demand sparked by the 2005 bill.

Hispanic or Latino?

The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are frequently tossed around by the United States government and the media. But, what exactly is the difference between these two labels?

The term “Hispanic” generally refers to any descendent from a Spanish-speaking nation of Latin America, while the term “Latino” refers to any descendent from a Latin American nation where the main language spoken is derived from Latin (Brazilians and Haitians, for example, speak Portuguese and French, respectively, which are both Latin-based languages).

It is important to note that the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” do not denote a particular ethnicity or race. Instead, individuals who fall under the label “Latino” or “Hispanic” share a common cultural/language background.

A 2006 Pew Hispanic Center survey uncovered that 48% of Latino adults normally identify themselves by their country of origin first as opposed to Hispanic or Latino. In terms of a preference for the Hispanic or Latino label, a 2008 survey by the Center found that 36% of those questioned prefer the term “Hispanic,” 21% prefer the term “Latino,” and the rest stated no preference.

Tips for Using the Terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”

Although both terms are considered acceptable by most people, some individuals or groups may show a keen preference for either “Latino” or “Hispanic.” An effort should be made to identify and respect these preferences.

When possible, use specific references such as “Mexican” or “Cuban-American” or “Costa Rican immigrant.”

“Latino” and “Latina” may be used as both an adjective and a noun.

The New York Times style guide defines “Hispanic” as “descended from a Spanish-speaking land or culture.” However, there is debate over the definition and usage of this term. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Hispanic” as of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal.” So, should Brazilians and Portuguese speakers be lumped into this category as well? Are Spaniards considered Hispanic, too?

In most cases, Brazilians are not categorized as “Hispanic,” but they may be accurately referred to as “Latino.” Spaniards are not generally considered Hispanic or Latino, since the use of these terms is normally reserved for descendents from countries in the New World. You can reduce ambiguity by using a more specific label, as previously stated.

Castilian Spanish Versus Latin American Spanish

Castilian Spanish – so named for its roots in the region of Castile – emerged from Spain’s many regional languages and dialects to become the primary language of the nation. Castilian Spanish was later brought to the New World through the colonization efforts of the Spanish, where the language enjoyed widespread adoption throughout the Americas. Over time, Latin American Spanish has evolved in its own right to contain various features that distinguish it from European Spanish.

The use of the term “castellano” as opposed to “español” when referring to the Spanish language may be interpreted in a number of ways. Since there are several official languages in Spain including Catalan, Basque, and Galician, the word “castellano” is often used to differentiate the Spanish language from these regional languages. Castellano may also be used to refer to regional dialects of the Spanish language spoken in Castile, for example, Andalusian. Many times – particularly outside of Spain – castellano and español are utilized interchangeably and simply refer to the Spanish language as a whole.

The terms Castilian Spanish or castellano are often used to draw a distinction between the Spanish spoken in Spain (Peninsular Spanish) and Latin American Spanish; however, this usage is somewhat misleading since Spanish speakers in Latin America also speak what are essentially dialects of Castilian Spanish as opposed to a distinct language, as is often implied.

Many Spanish speakers in Latin America customarily refer to their language as castellano as opposed to español. For example, Southern Cone countries such as Argentina and Uruguay have a tendency to refer to Spanish as castellano, while other parts of South America alternate between the use of the terms español and castellano. In the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, Spanish is almost exclusively referred to as español.

While there is no generic form of Latin American Spanish, many countries share several features of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar that set apart Latin American Spanish from Castilian Spanish.

Read more about Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish

Translate your document to Spanish.

Spanish Speakers in U.S. Exposed to Dangerous Pharmacy Errors

Apparently, speaking Spanish in the United States can be hazardous to one’s health. According to a recent study to be published in the journal Pediatrics, Spanish speakers are exposed to an unacceptable number of grave translation errors in the instructions provided with prescription medications. Pharmacists’ computers frequently deliver “Spanglish” translations, which ultimately pose a threat to patients’ health, as they are open to misinterpretation and therefore possible overdose. Overloaded pharmacists who are lacking Spanish-language skills simply do not have the time or ability to review the prescription labels for errors.

The best way that non-English speaking patients can protect themselves from misunderstandings when dealing with medical professionals is to request an interpreter or translator with expertise in the medical field in order to receive instructions and other vital information in their native tongue. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry should push for the hiring of more bilingual pharmacists and the development of more advanced pharmacy prescription software that produces clearer translations when the use of automatic translation is unavoidable.

Click here for more information on this story from

Visit our Pharmaceutical Glossary for English and Spanish terms and our Pharmaceutical Abbreviations section for English and Spanish Meaning of Latin Abbreviations in the Pharmacy Industry.

Studies Reveal Inadequacies in Marketing to the Latino Demographic

Although the Latino market in the United States continues to grow exponentially, many marketers have yet to effectively learn how to tap into this key demographic. With Hispanic spending power approaching the $1 trillion mark, it’s hard to believe that retailers aren’t working more aggressively to capture the attention of this influential segment; however, the truth is that many businesses have yet to wake up to the importance of marketing to the Latino community.

A recent survey of marketers conducted by Orcí – a leading Hispanic advertising and marketing firm – revealed that only 50% of marketers direct their advertising specifically at the Latino segment. While “the majority of respondents believe Hispanics will have a significant impact on a variety of aspects of American culture” [1] including food, fashion and beauty, and technology, the vast majority of marketers don’t plan to specifically target the Latino demographic in the upcoming year.

According to the Orcí survey, nearly 40% of marketers question the return on investment that a Latino marketing campaign would bring, while approximately 30% feel that their company’s current marketing strategy is effective for the Latino segment.

In addition to the lack of attention paid to Hispanics in the traditional realms of advertising such as TV, radio and print, marketers have also neglected to reach out to this segment through trends such as social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace).

In a separate study conducted by AOL, findings revealed that most companies that have attempted to reach out to their Hispanic customers online are going about it in the wrong way. Spanish sites are often poorly translated, resulting in a mere shadow of the English version of the company’s online presence. Even when retailers do get it right and hire a translator to create a top-notch, professional translation, the message frequently fails to connect with readers because it hasn’t been specifically tailored to Hispanics.

“Hispanics are tech savvy, young trend setters with incredible spending power,” Orcí said. “Companies that recognize the potential of the market by effectively engaging them will see a return on their investment.” [2]

[1] Orcí 2010 Hispanic Marketing Trends Survey
[2] BizReport, Hispanic-specific marketing found lacking

Latinos and the 2010 U.S. Census

With the 2010 U.S. Census set to begin in March, members of the Latino community are at odds over their participation in the decennial survey. Some fear that the census data collected by the government could provide an inaccurate tally of the population. “Concerns about an accurate count of the Latino community partly stem from the outcome of the 2000 census, when the Census Bureau estimated that it over-counted the total population by 1.3 million people while under-counting Hispanics by 250,000.” [1]

Accurate census data that reflects the true makeup of the population is of great importance; decisions regarding the distribution of federal funding for community projects and political representation rely heavily upon information culled from the census. An inaccurate representation of the population could lead to the loss of federal dollars for services that would benefit the Latino community.

The language barrier is one of the principal threats to the accuracy of the Latino count. Advocates are hopeful that the government will hire additional Spanish-speaking census workers to conduct field interviews and outreach with Latinos who may be wary of completing census forms. The Census Bureau announced that 13 million bilingual census forms would be printed to promote increased participation in the government headcount.

Undocumented immigrants within the Hispanic community are far less likely to complete census forms out of fear of an investigation or raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), though the Census Bureau asserts that the information collected is not shared with other government agencies and is kept confidential for a period of 72 years.

Hispanic advocacy groups have been running informational campaigns to educate Hispanics about the census and to encourage participation. The Latino interest group known as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) even went so far as to create Christmas-themed census posters “showing Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem for a census and the birth of Jesus,” a move that stirred up controversy among religious conservatives and the broader Latino community. [2]

Unfortunately, the poster controversy served to widen the rift between Latinos who are promoting participation in the census and those who are urging a boycott to protest the crackdown by federal authorities on illegal immigration, as well as the lack of movement on immigration reform.

More information on the Hispanic Community in U.S

[1] ABC News, High-Stakes Census for Latinos Complicated by Fears

[2] The Washington Post, Hispanic leaders disagree over Christmas-themed census poster

How Hispanic Immigrants and Their Families Fare in the U.S.

The impact of immigration on the U.S. over the years in undeniable, but what sort of influence is the U.S. having on recent Latino immigrants and successive generations of “native Latinos” born on American soil?

A study undertaken by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that U.S.-born Latinos expressed optimism regarding their economic futures, and they expect to improve upon the previous generation’s financial status. The study also revealed some troubling statistics concerning the Latino population, including higher-than-average dropout and teen pregnancy rates for newly-arrived immigrants, as well as a propensity for gang involvement and violence among native Latinos.

Analysts predict that within 15 years, 25% of college-aged students will be Latino. As such, advocacy groups are encouraging politicians to look beyond Hispanic stereotypes and to work toward creating transitional programs to assist Latino students with the demands of higher education in order to ensure their success.

Read more about the study and its findings here.