Spanish Language in Bilbao

Spanish is the common language in Spain but there are other languages spoken in some regional areas. In regions such as Cataluña, Galicia or the Basque Country, both Spanish and the regional language are official languages. Even though the number of bilingual speakers in Bilbao is growing, Spanish is still the most widespread, it is know by everyone and used by the vast majority of the population in everyday life.

As for the variant of Spanish spoken in Bilbao, it is notable that people neatly articulate each vowel of every word, with the only exception of participles ending in – “ado”, which never fail to lose their “d” and lose one syllable: “comprao” instead of “comprado”(bought); “Olvidao” instead of olvidado (forgotten). At grammatical level, the language in Bilbao meets morpho-syntactic standards and it is free of examples of “laismo” and “loismo”, so prevalent in Castilla and La Mancha. There is only a noticeable misuse of tenses in conditional sentences involving the “pretérito imparefecto del subjutivo” which is replaced with a conditional:

  • Si sabría la respuesta te la diría” (If I would know the answer I would tell you) instead of “Si supiera la respuesta te la diría” (If I knew the answer I would tell you)

This also refers to the “pretérito perfecto”:

  • Si habrían sabido la verdad te lo habrían dicho” (If they would have known the answer they would have told you) instead of “Si hubieran sabido la verdad te lo habrían dicho” (‘If they had known the answer they would have told you…’)

But the highlight of Spanish spoken in Bilbao is the very intonation and rhythm of all oral exchanges, the clarity of diction and superb correction.

At a socio-linguistic level, there are also peculiarities of the speech in Bilbao. The most important (shared by all the Basque Country) is the restricted use of formal ways of addressing involving ‘usted’ (only used in the Tourism and Hospitality industry). The use of ‘tu’ is widespread in the whole Basque Country, which makes daily communication easier for foreigners.