What is the official language of Andorra and which languages are spoken?
To understand Andorra, its traditions, its culture, its official language, and the languages spoken in this small territory located in southwestern Europe with an area of 468 square kilometers, it is necessary to understand its history and its past.
Brief History of Andorra
According to legend, Charlemagne founded Andorra in the year 805 AD in recognition of the assistance provided by its resident in the fight against the Moors. Around the year 800, Charlemagne’s grandson appointed the Bishop of Urgell as the supreme leader of Andorra. A descendant gave the lands to the diocese of Urgell, headed by the Bishop of this region.
In the 13th century, a period of conflict and hostilities began between the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix to gain sovereignty over Andorra. This conflict ended with the signing of the “pariatges” in 1278, which established the foundations of shared sovereignty between both rulers, laying the groundwork for what is now known as the Principality of Andorra, both in its political form and its territory.
This pact, known as “pariatges,” has endured over time with transformations throughout history, to the point that the current Andorran constitution recognizes the system of co-principality, with the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic serving as co-princes of Andorra, on equal terms and in their personal capacities.
Due to its rugged mountainous terrain, limited accessibility, and harsh weather conditions, Andorra remained a somewhat inhospitable territory until well after World War II, with few connections with countries other than France or Spain. However, in recent times, its thriving tourism industry, along with advancements in transportation and communications, has brought the country out of isolation.
Location of Andorra
The Principality of Andorra, commonly known as Andorra, is a country located in southwestern Europe, with borders connecting it to Spain in the south and France in the north. It is an independent, democratic, and social state, organized territorially into seven parishes, with a total population of 80,000 resident.
It is a small country but with significant tourist appeal, where sports and mountain activities predominate, such as alpine skiing, mountain skiing, cross-country skiing in winter, and hiking, climbing, or canyoning in summer. Tranquility and security are hallmarks of its rich culture, where more than 100 nationalities from around the world coexist. Andorra is one of the few countries that allow one to escape the bustling cities for a few days of disconnection, contact with nature, and the possibility of isolating oneself in one of its numerous mountains, some of which reach heights close to 3,000 meters.
Thanks to its cultural diversity, the multitude of tourists from different parts of the world, its history, and cultural characteristics, we can affirm that Catalan, Spanish, and French are spoken in Andorra, in addition to English and Portuguese. Portuguese is spoken due to the significant Portuguese community that exists in the country, representing more than 15% of its residents.
As a result, language and communication with the people of Andorra are not a problem, usually its easy as most of its residents commonly speak four of the five languages mentioned, if not all of them.
Catalan as the Official Language in Andorra
The official language in Andorra is Catalan, despite the multilingualism among its residents, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs. For Andorrans, Catalan predominates among the other languages because it is a language with origins and history dating back to before the 8th century. Additionally, Catalan is mandatory in schools and in Andorran public institutions. For this reason, the government subsidizes Catalan language learning programs, which are entirely free, encouraging everyone to learn the official language of Andorra.
In the Andorran education system offers completely free education, with Catalan and French as the predominant languages from the age of three. At the age of seven, they include English as becomes the predominant language in the world, followed by Spanish at the age of ten. Later, in secondary and higher education, all four languages are equally practiced, with four hours per week dedicated to each language. In terms of languages, the Andorran system is the most comprehensive, as it places great importance on all four languages, teaching reading, comprehension, and oral language skills from a young age.
People chatting in Catalan at an educational institution
In the Spanish education system, Catalan predominates in Andorra, followed by Spanish since subjects are taught in Catalan, but Spanish is mandatory from an early age. English is introduced later due to its global importance as a predominant language. French is introduced as an optional language for students who wish to learn it and deepen into a fourth language.
In the French education system, education is exclusively conducted in French, and Catalan, Spanish, and English are taught only in their respective language courses, with two to three hours of instruction per week.
In addition, there are private education systems similar to private systems in Spain, Germany, France, or Great Britain, where English-language education predominates in accordance with private teaching systems.
In summary, individuals acquire knowledge in Catalan, Spanish, English, or French in any of the educational and training systems in the Principality of Andorra. Furthermore, there is consideration of establishing a system of education and knowledge in the Portuguese language with the Portuguese community.
Language in the Country
As the official language, all official documents are written and formalized in Catalan. However, being an international business center with a solid financial system and connections to many countries worldwide, it is common for many private contracts or legal agreements to be drafted in other commonly used languages, such as Spanish, English, French, or Portuguese. In the event of disputes between parties in court or when agreements are reached, these must be transcribed and drafted in Catalan.
Although Catalan is the official language, it does not pose any obstacle to conducting business and relationships in Andorra in other non-official languages, as long as it does not involve public administrations. Public administrations officially accept documents in Catalan, Spanish, or French without requiring translation, and they may request a translation of documents presented in other languages.
Regarding employment, it is generally required in public institutions to have Catalan language, in addition to Spanish, English, and French. It is essential to be able to write, speak, and understand Catalan perfectly to work in official bodies. For private companies in the commerce, customer service, tourism, or leisure sectors, knowledge of Catalan is usually recommended but not essential, while Spanish, English, and French are much more commonly used. In service-based companies (banking, consulting, real estate, finance, etc.), English, Portuguese, French, Spanish (and until recently, Russian) are typically the predominant languages with international clients, while Catalan is used with national clients and public institutions.
As a curiosity, Andorran television is broadcast in Catalan (RTVA), but all households have access to Spanish and French public television channels at no cost. This fact means that many households watch television in Catalan, French, or Spanish.
Advantages of Multilingualism in Andorra
Years of learning different languages have allowed Andorra to become a country with significant contrasts. It is a mountainous country where natives tend to be introverted and have a somewhat unsociable and non-improvisational character, but it boasts great cultural diversity due to its education, multilingualism (most people speak at least four languages), and because many of them are married to foreigners. Furthermore, it’s important to consider the great diversity of nationalities coexisting in a country of more than 80,000 residents, where Andorrans represent one-third of the population, and the other two-thirds come from various parts of the world (with Spaniards, French, Portuguese, English, and Northern Europeans predominating), making Andorra a small yet highly international state.
Catalan in Andorra is not an obstacle for people who want to visit or reside in the country. The multitude of spoken languages allows for easy communication and understanding. Additionally, those who choose to live in the Principality and want to practice the Catalan language can learn it for free and in a personalized manner, all funded by the Andorran government through special Catalan language training programs.