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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Gibraltar - Speaking the Language
Llanito is the main local vernacular, and it is unique to Gibraltar. It is an eclectic mix of British English and Andalusian Spanish, combined with languages such as Portuguese, Maltese, Italian of the Genoese variety, and Haketia. Andalusian Spanish had an influence on Llanito, while British English played a significant role in it as well. Llanito has borrowed words and expressions from many different languages, having more than 500 words of Genoese and Hebrew origin. Code-switching to English is particularly present in this country. The term Llanito is also used as a sort of demonym.
During its long history, the Rock of Gibraltar has changed rulers many times, with Spanish, British and Moorish leaders all taking power. Regardless of all these changes, it has been consistently under British control since the Treaty of Utrecht, made in 1713. Before the British came to power, Spanish was widely spoken in Gibraltar. In the period that followed, most of the residents left the country, so the language was spoken by a significantly smaller section of the population. In 1753 there were only 185 Spanish there, while in 1777 only 134 residents were Spanish. Two centuries later, in 1985, the border with Spain was finally opened, allowing people to easily travel in and out of Spain, which is one the main factors for the huge presence of Andalusian Spanish in Gibraltar nowadays. According to the 2001 census, there were 326 people of Spanish nationality in Gibraltar, and a large number of frontier workers who worked on the island.
As Gibraltar is geographically very close to Morocco and Algeria, which are the Arabic-speaking North African countries, Maghrebi Arabic language is spoken by the Moroccan and other North African minorities in this country. In 2001 census, there were 961 Moroccans in Gibraltar.
When it comes to other languages on the Rock, Hindi and Sindhi are also spoken, mostly by the Indian community of Gibraltar. Maltese is a language that was widely used in Gibraltar up until the late 19th century, and still spoken by some families of Maltese origin today. Genoese was spoken in Catalan Bay well into the 19th century, rapidly diminishing in the early decades of the 20th century. Hebrew is also spoken by the Jewish community in this country.
Visitors in Gibraltar
Most of the visitors to Gibraltar will hear several languages being spoken by the local people while they explore the area. However, it is good to know that the only official language in this country is English. This language is used for all business of the government, and for commercial purposes. It is also the official language used for teaching in schools. As mentioned earlier, the country’s Mediterranean position and proximity to Spain, Portugal and North Africa means that it is still strongly influenced by other languages and cultures, so Gibraltarian English might sound a little different from UK or US English.
Gibraltar has a multi-cultural society and many of the citizens are able to communicate in another language, which is usually Spanish, due to the country's location next to the Spanish region of Andalusia. Those who are born and raised in Gibraltar can generally speak Llanito as well. It is known as a dialect which is a mixture of English and Andalusian Spanish, but which reflects all the influences of other European languages as well. However, it is not necessary to be familiar with any particular language other than English, when visiting Gibraltar.
This country is not known for attracting a large number of expats. As a result of this, the languages that are used on daily basis include Arabic, Hebrew and Maltese, with Spanish which is more frequently used. In recent years some Italian and Russian voices can be also heard on the street, while Portuguese is also becoming more and more common. An English speaking expat would have no trouble at all in this country, without learning any other language. However, those who spend some more time in Gibraltar quickly start to learn some Spanish, even though Spanish people that work in the country are generally fluent in English language. For those whose native language is something other than English, it is recommended to learn enough English to communicate on a day to day level.
For any expats that don't speak English, language classes can be easily found in this country. Expats who move to Gibraltar for work and are in need for language training should have some courses organized by their employer. It is also very easy to find a private tutor that can help with English.
In Gibraltar there are several language schools that offer different types of classes in different languages. Classes can be organized in groups or individually, and there are classes for small children as well as for adults. There are always numerous occasions to learn Spanish language while in Gibraltar and its proximity to Spain enables people to practice their skills even more.
Most of the schools can be found on the internet.
Read more about this country
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