The official language of Andorra is Catalan. The Principality is the only country in which Catalan has the status of official language throughout its territory. According to the Language Policy Service of the Andorran government, Catalan is the mother tongue of 49.4% of the Andorran nationality population, but only 29.9% of the total population uses it.
Despite having only one official language, in Andorra, you can also communicate in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
In contrast, Spanish is the most widespread mother tongue among the population of Andorra. Despite the growth of Andorran and Portuguese nationalities, 43.4% stated that Spanish is their mother tongue. The study shows that in recent years there has been a deterioration in the position of the Catalan language in favor of Spanish.
In terms of literacy in Andorra, 100% of citizens can read and write. Spanish is the language that ranks first for the proportion of the population that is literate, followed by French, and in third place Catalan.
According to the Social Observatory of Andorra, the linguistic uses in Andorra are as follows:
- Catalan 38,8%
- Spanish 35.4%
- Portuguese 15%
- French 5.4%
- Other 5,5%
Languages in Andorra’s Education
The educational system in Andorra is divided into three types: Andorran, Spanish and French. The Andorran system depends on the Ministry of Education of the Government of Andorra and was created in 1982, the core language of this course is Catalan.
The Spanish system relies on the Spanish Ministry of Education and has five primary and one secondary school. The main language of this system is Spanish. French structure has 14 nursery and primary schools and one high school, the Lycée Comte de Foix, with French as the core language.
Catalan is the only official language of Andorra. It is the historical and traditional language of the country and is used by the government, television, radio, and other national media. Catalan is the main language of all inhabitants of Andorran nationality living in the territory of the country, which represents 33% of the total population.
Catalan is also the main language of almost 25% of immigrants of Spanish origin (who make up 43% of the population of Andorra) who emigrated from Catalonia and the Valencian Community in 1985.
Recently, the government of Andorra has imposed the learning and use of Catalan among the immigrant workforce to fully implement the constitution and to address the problem of people living in a country without the knowledge of its only official language. Despite the influx of Spanish-speaking tourists from Spain, public and private signs in Andorra are generally only in Catalan.
Spanish and Galician
Spanish is the main language of almost 70% of the country’s immigrants of Spanish origin (the remaining 5% speak Galician). Most arrived in the country between 1955 and 1995 from the traditionally less developed regions of the south, west, and center of the Iberian Peninsula and regions of Asturias, Cantabria.
Andorra’s low level of development, the low level of education in the immigrants’ country of origin, and the fear of an invasion by Franco’s Spain complicated the full integration of immigrants until 1993 when the country’s constitution was approved. Since then, Spanish has become the second most spoken language of Andorra. Spanish is also the main language of communication between people of different linguistic backgrounds. The use of this “street language” has prompted the government to intervene to promote the general and universal use of Catalan.
Since Andorra adopted an educational system inspired by the Catalan and French systems, children can learn Spanish if their parents choose Catalan as an option.
Proximity to the French border, a low cost of living, and employment opportunities in the booming tourism industry have helped increase the number of French nationals to 7% of the country’s total population. Immigrants from French-speaking Africa have also increased the number of French speakers.
French is the main language of communication after Catalan in the town of Pas de la Casa, on the French border. It accounts for an average of 2.2% of conversations. In 2016, there were approximately 4,000 residents of French nationality in Andorra.
The economic situation of northern Portugal led to a large migration flow to Andorra between 1960 and 1980, increasing the Portuguese population to 11% of the total population of Andorra. Also, a small community of Brazilians migrated to Andorra in the 1990s. The maternal Portuguese-speaking population is about 13% of the country’s total population. Portuguese is used in 3.5% of conversations.
Language of the Andorra Administration
According to Article 8 of the Act regulating the use of the official language, Catalan is the language that must be used by all Andorran public institutions, both orally and in writing. Consequently, the services of the Administration and Social Services are provided only in Catalan. The only exception is the area of Foreign Affairs, although in this case only the Catalan document is “officially considered”.
Public Administration even has to provide retraining for its employees who do not know enough Catalan and language proficiency tests to apply for a job in the civil service.
Andorranisms in DIEC
The second edition of the Diccionari de la llengua Catalana of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (DIEC2) incorporates several Andorranisms. The Language Policy Service believes that it is important for the Catalan language normative dictionary to include Andorran lexical specificities. Many of the Andorranisms listed in it belong to the administrative language, which in Andorra has its own uninterrupted tradition, with a different dynamic from other Catalan-speaking territories, and with an important specific weight.
Free Catalan Courses in Andorra
The Catalan Language Department in Andorra offers free Catalan courses to people over the age of 16 and to companies.
Registrations can be made primarily online, and the annual training offer includes six levels (from A1 to C2) that prepare for the official government exams, with which the corresponding official Catalan language diplomas can be obtained.
There are two types of courses:
- Extensive course, three hours a week, from September to June.
- Intensive courses, four hours a week, from September to January and from February to June.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, courses will comply with all the corresponding measures (cleaning of spaces, antibacterial gel, masks, safety distance, ventilation, etc.) to ensure the safety of both students and teachers.
Moving to Andorra: Your Kids Will Speak Catalan!
The current policy of defending the Catalan language is particularly expressed through the educational system, where it predominates from kindergarten to third grade. If you are thinking of moving to Andorra, your children will have to face the official language of the country.
But not only this: many courses are also presented in French or Spanish and are adapted to everyone’s practice. Don’t panic if you and your loved ones are not yet familiar with Catalan! The role played by tourism Andorra and economic activity means that other languages are spoken in Andorra, lately also including English.