Castellano - the more precise name for the Spanish we know - is the national language and is spoken throughout Spain. However, what many people don't know is that along with the widespread Castellano, there are three other fully-developed independent languages: Gallego, Catalán and Vasco. Why, then, is Castellano the language most commonly thought of as Spanish?
Each of the four languages is historically linked to a specific region. Castellano, while it is spoken throughout the Spanish-speaking world, is actually the result of badly-spoken Latin spoken originally across Cantabria, Burgos and La Rioja. Eventually the language spread into and became the principal language of the ultra-important, government-based Kingdom of Castilla- hence Castellano: the language of Castilla.
Gallego and Catalán, contrary to popular belief, are not dialects of Castellano. The three are Latin-derived languages that developed simultaneously yet independently from each other. Due to their geographic locations, Gallego - spoken in Galicia - bears resemblance to Portuguese while Catalán - spoken in Cataluña, Islas Baleares and Valencia - shares many similarities with French.
The fourth regional language, Vasco - or Euskara as it's called locally - is seemingly the odd man out. Spoken throughout the Pais Vasco (Basque Country) and Navarra, this Spanish language is an interesting case. While surrounded by Romance languages (Castellano, French, Catalán), Vasco is the only Spanish language not derived from Latin. Little is known about the language's origins, but chances are that the language actually existed in some form as a native language before Romance languages even made it to the Iberian Peninsula.
Today, regional languages are an intrinsic part of the cultures to which they pertain. Within their regions, the three additional Spanish languages share co-official language status with Castellano and play a major part in the press, politics and in regional cultural identities.
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