The first language is the language that one normally speaks. Many speakers in Galicia normally use both Galician and Castilian Spanish. However, the largest group is made up of people who only use Galician. A third of the population is bilingual. Just like with the mother tongue data, the use of Galician falls according to the age bracket, and therefore it is the youngest speakers who least use Galician. However, latest studies indicate that there is a deceleration in the loss of speakers amongst the youngest age group. The geographical distribution shows that Castilian has a greater presence in the cities and that Galician is the language in smaller municipalities.
In general, the younger the speaker, the greater is the proportion of monolingual Castilian speakers and the smaller is the number of monolingual Galician speakers.
Although it may sound like a bold prediction, the data may indicate that the loss of Galician speakers is at its lowest point.
The areas where fewer people speak Galician are the Atlantic cities of Vigo, A Coruña and Ferrol.
The first language is the language that one normally speaks. The survey asked interviewees the question: “Which language do you speak?” with four possible answers: “only Galician”, “more Galician than Castilian”, “more Castilian than Galician” and “only Castilian”. The results are shown below:
The main group is that of monolingual Galician speakers. The other three options have a similar number of speakers. If we combine the bilingual groups with predominant Galician and predominant Castilian, we can see that this group makes up a third of the population of Galicia. The data suggest (when not diachronically cross referenced) that Galician is not only the first language of Galicia, but that it is also enjoying good health.
If we analyze the data according to the age of the speaker, we can get an idea of the social trends towards Galician; that is to say, what its future might be if circumstances do not change.
The graph shows that it is the older generations that speak more Galician. Generally speaking, the younger the speaker, the greater is the proportion of monolingual Castilian speakers and the lesser the number of monolingual Galician speakers. Groups of bilingual speakers have the following pattern: the group speaking most Galician shows rising numbers in all age groups except in the case of the oldest speakers while those who speak mostly Castilian is highest amongst the younger speakers and numbers fall as we move to older generations. This confusion can be better clarified if we combine the groups of bilingual speakers with the groups of monolingual speakers according to their language of preference. This gives the following results:
This other graph shows a new reality. Although we have to point out that there is an important decline in the number of Galician speakers and a corresponding rise in the number of Castilian speakers, it nevertheless seems that the tendency is stabilizing. That is, the sensation is that from generation to generation, above all amongst the youngest speakers, the loss of Galician speakers seems to be slowing down. Although it may sound like a bold prediction, the data may indicate that the loss of Galician speakers is at its lowest point.
The distribution of the first language in Galicia is as follows:
The geographical representation of first language also has five divisions. The scale used here ranges from 1 to 4. An area where all speakers spoke only Galician would receive a score of 4 while one where they all spoke only Castilian would receive a score of 1. The midpoint is 2.5. The areas where fewer people speak Galician are those of the Atlantic cities of Vigo, A Coruña and Ferrol. The average here is below the midpoint, i.e., Castilian is the main language in these places. Galician is the dominant language in the remaining areas. In the next two divisions we find the other urban areas of Galician, namely, Pontevedra, Santiago, Lugo and Ourense, where the use of Galician is slightly above midpoint; Pontevedra is the area with the least use of Galician in this division. As was the case with mother tongue, we can see that the coastal areas of the province of Pontevedra are also included in this middle section. In the remaining areas there are two more categories. One where the use of Galician is high, made up of the areas of eastern A Coruña, southern Lugo and all the administrative areas of Ourense except the capital city, which we have already mentioned. Finally, we come to the group bordering on Galician monolingualism, made up of the inland areas of the province of Pontevedra, the north of Lugo and the non-urban coast of A Coruña. If we compare the data on mother tongue and first language according to area, we can see an important correlation, as these are the areas with most speakers with Galician as mother tongue and also the areas having the most favorable scores for Galician as the first language.
If we compare the evolution of the first language between 1992 and 2003, we can see that there is a significant rise in monolingual usage. In fact, one of the most outstanding results of the Mapa Sociolingüístico de Galicia (1992) was the high incidence of bilingualism in Galicia. During this period, we can see that the tendency has reversed, where the group with the highest proportional growth is that of Castilian monolinguals, which stops being a minority group, and has grown from 10.6% of speakers in 1992 to 18.5% in 2003. The number of Galician monolinguals has also risen but to a lesser extent, in both relative and absolute terms. The Galician monolingual speakers still make up the most numerous group, and the gap between this group and the other groups rises spectacularly. On the other hand, the most negative piece of information for Galician is the sharp fall in bilinguals with dominant Galician (29.9% to 19%), which means a loss of Galician speakers overall.