On this page, you’ll find:
- Why the language many people call “Spanish” must be properly called “Castilian” whether the language is spoken in Spain or in any part of Latin America or the USA.
- Why it’s damaging to society to call a single language “Spanish”
- The Royal Academy’s gradual acceptance and admission about the Castilian-language reality
- Countries where Castilian is spoken today
- When it is appropriate and correct to use the term “Spanish”
- Frequently Asked Questions & Answers about this topic
- Information about my upcoming book The Castilian Conspiracy
- A link to UnifiedCastilian.com
Why the language must be called Castilian (not “Spanish”)
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly think that the most widely spoken language in Spain and Latin America should be called “Spanish”. There are historical reasons for this unfortunate situation, and the main culprit was the ex-Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco (1892-1975). The fact is that there are several officially-recognized languages spoken in Spain, including (but not limited to) Castilian (the one many people unfortunately call “Spanish”, as if there were only one Spanish language), Catalán, Euskera (Basque), and Galician. All of these (along with some others) are Spanish languages, since they are all spoken natively there.
Franco’s mission (which fortunately failed) was to wipe out all languages spoken in Spain except for Castilian, and call the remaining language “Spanish”. Franco even sent his soldiers to Catalonia with the mission to burn all books printed in Catalán in bonfires in the streets. Fortunately, they didn’t find all of those books! After Franco’s fall, the new Spanish Constitution corrected that cruel act by making several clear statements in Article 3:
Spanish Constitution, Article 3:
- Castilian is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have the obligation to know it, and the right to use it.
- The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective autonomous communities, according to their statutes.
- The richness of Spain’s diverse linguistic modalities represents our national heritage and shall be the object of special protection.
Fortunately, many of the other Spanish languages continue to thrive to this day, with podcasts, radio and TV stations, current books, and daily newspapers in many of them. It is both inaccurate and degrading to call the Castilian language “Spanish”. It would be as crazy as calling the English language “United Kingdomish”, or —in the era of the Soviet Union— like a Russian saying “I speak Soviet”. In the United Kingdom, speakers of Cornish, Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Scottish, or Welsh would be quite offended if people from London said: “I speak UK-ish”. It would also be incorrect to say that the official language of Israel is “Israeli” or that the official language of Iran is Iranian. One of the official languages of Israel is Hebrew, and the official language of Iran is Farsi (aka Persian). The point is that in all of these countries (Iran, Israel, Spain, and the United Kingdom), the language predates the current country structure, and that’s why the name of the language is not the same as the name of the country.
The Constitutions of many Latin American countries —including Colombia, Perú, and Venezuela— also properly state that the official language of the country is Castilian. In Venezuelan schools, report cards (which list a student’s grades) properly designate their language class as Castellano y Literatura (Castilian and Literature). Although México’s Constitution doesn’t mention an official language, the ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox has been quoted as saying: “With Castilian, we can cross 20 international borders without losing the message”.
Why is it damaging to society to call a single language “Spanish”?
By calling a single language (Castilian) “Spanish” (or by using the two terms as synonyms) it is not only inaccurate, but also damaging to society for the following reasons:
- It is either a demonstration of ignorance, a covert attempt to continue with Franco’s cruel linguistic mission, or an attempt to cover up the terrible situation he created, which is comparable to the Holocaust.
- It can alienate Spaniards who speak one of the other Spanish languages, making them feel unwelcome in their (now united) Spain.
The Royal Academy’s gradual admission about the Castilian-language reality
Older versions of the Royal Academy’s official Dictionary disdained the term Castilian as the name of an ancient dialect. In those older versions of the Dictionary, the Academy was obviously still under the influence of Franco’s mission. However, the current version now properly defines Castilian as the true name of the most widely used Spanish language, and at the same time recognizes the existence of the other Spanish languages.
Some countries where Castilian is spoken today
This is a partial list of countries where Castilian is spoken today as a first or second language: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Perú, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela, Uruguay, USA (second language).
When it is correct and appropriate to use the term “Spanish”?
It is appropriate to use the term “Spanish” as an adjective to describe things or people belonging to Spain, as in the following sentences:
- Castilian is the most widely used Spanish language. Euskera (Basque) and Galician are also important Spanish languages in their specific regions.
- I often quote the Spanish Constitution.
- Spanish dance, Spanish food, and Spanish wine are known throughout the world.
Frequently Asked Questions about Castilian/Spanish:
Why is Castilian called Castilian?
Castilian is called that way because it originated in Castile (which is now part of the Kingdom of Spain), just as English is called English because it originated in England (which is now part of the United Kingdom). Spain is really a group of independent countries which were unified, just as the United Kingdom is a group of countries that did the same. That’s the reason why —on the landing page of my websites (AllanTepper.com and TecnoTur.us), I symbolize the English language with the English flag (not the UK flag) and the Castilian language with the Castilian flag (not the Spanish flag).
I thought that the Castilian term specifically referred to the way they pronounce the letters c and the z in certain parts of Spain. Isn’t that the case?
That is an unfortunate myth. The language is properly called Castilian, just as the one you are reading now is called English. There are minor differences between Australian English, Bahamas English, Canadian English, UK English, and USA English. There are even regional differences in the USA between Boston English, Georgia English, and Texan English… but the language is still properly called English. Castilian is spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Perú, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela, Uruguay, USA (second language), and many other places too.
I have a friend who is from (one of those countries), and s/he always said that her/his language is “Spanish”. Why?
Your friend was being imprecise, either out of convenience or out of ignorance. Whichever the reason, the fact that s/he called the language “Spanish” proves that Franco’s mission is still successful decades after his death and after the correction/consolation in the Spanish Constitution… but now that you and I both know the truth, it’s our responsibility to fix that. Very educated Castilian speakers know the truth about this, although some of them imprecisely refer to the Castilian language as “Spanish” (“español”) either because they think you won’t understand (and don’t want to invest the time into educating you about it) or s/he suffers from “third-party guilt” and would prefer to bury it. The time has arrived to correct this situation once and for all! We must end the cover-up now!
How can I be notified about your upcoming book?
My upcoming book The Castilian Conspiracy will soon be available with the following information:
It will also be available as an e-book and as an audiobook. To be notified, send me a message here and select your preferred list(s) from the pulldown menu.
If I need a translation from English to Castilian, do I need to be concerned about different versions according to the target location?
It depends on the content and the situation. Please visit UnifiedCastilian.com for a full explanation of when and how that should be handled, depending upon the content and situation.