Aranese is a dialect spoken in the Val d’Aran region of Northwest Catalonia, where it has held official status since 2010 along with
its close relative, Catalan, and standard Castilian Spanish. Like Spanish and its other dialects, Aranese is a Romance language. It is a sub-dialect of Occitan, which is spoken in Southern France, Monaco and parts of Italy, but the influence of Spanish and Catalan mean that it has become quite distinct from its neighbours.
Aranese (Aranés) was once considered an endangered language; its speakers had dwindled to the older people of the region but since 1984 it has been taught in schools bilingually alongside Castilian, which has contributed to something of a resurgence in the language. A linguistic census in 2008 estimated that around 78% of the population of Val d’Aran could understand Aranese, 57% could speak it, though only 35% could write it.
Aranese differs in some spellings from standard Spanish, for example the capital of the Val d’Aran is Vielha e Mijaran rather than the Spanish spelling of Viella. If you are travelling in the region, you may notice these sorts of differences on road signs and maps, which use the local dialect as their official language.
It can seem daunting to think of so many different dialects being spoken across Spain, but it’s no more necessary to learn them all than it is, say, to adopt local vernacular as you travel around the UK. Students attending our Spanish lessons in London will receive a thorough grounding in Castilian, which is official across the whole country and will be spoken and understood wherever you go.