Argentina is a South American country with a population of 42,192,500. Due to governmental policies that encouraged international immigration during the mid-1800’s, the ethnic makeup of its citizens and residents is diverse. The diversity in Argentina is further reflected by the languages spoken there. This article takes a look at some of the major languages used in the country.
Major Languages Spoken In Argentina
Spanish is the most spoken language of Argentina. This fact can be accredited to the history of the country as a Spanish colony and the widespread use of the language at independence. Today, the vast majority of the population, 40.9 million, speak this language. Spanish is used by government offices, in the educational system, and by the mainstream media. The variation of Spanish spoken here is unique in that it uses the voseo form for the informal “you.” Very few Spanish-speaking countries utilize this form. The pronunciation is also varied throughout the country, in some places influenced by Italian-speaking immigrants. Additionally, the letters “ll” and “y” are commonly pronounced as the “y” in “you,” however, in Argentinian Spanish it is pronounced “zh.”
Italian ranks second among the languages spoken in Argentina. Estimates indicate that over 1.5 million people speak Italian as their first language. This large Italian-speaking community is the result of significant immigration that began in the 19th century, motivated by economic problems in Italy. Today, Argentina is home to the second largest Italian population outside of Italy. Italian immigration continued through the 1920’s. As previously mentioned, the Italian language has influenced Argentinian Spanish to the point that in some regions, it even sounds like Italian.
Immigrants from mainly Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine resulted in the third most widely spoken language in the country. Levantine Arabic, which originates from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, is spoken by approximately 1 million people in Argentina. Levantine Arabic speakers began arriving in Argentina at the end of the 19th century until around 1920.
Other Languages Spoken In Argentina
Other languages spoken by between 100,000 and 1 million people include: Quechua (800,000), German (between 400,000 and 500,000), Yiddish (200,000), Guaraní (200,000), Catalan (174,000), Mapudungun (100,000). Of these, Quechua, Guaraní, and Mapudungun are indigenous languages. Quechua is spoken throughout the South American Andes Mountains region; the Quechua speakers in Argentina are mainly immigrants from Bolivia. Guaraní, one of the official languages of Paraguay, belongs to the Tupi-Guarani language family. Mapudungun is the language of the Mapuche people. German, Yiddish, and Catalan arrived in Argentina via European immigrants.
Several other languages are spoken by smaller populations. Some of these include Chinese, Japanese, Welsh, and several indigenous languages.
Endangered Languages Of Argentina
Many languages are spoken by only a minority of Argentinians. These languages are considered endangered because the only living speakers are older generations whose children and grandchildren do not speak the language. This lack of passing along the language to younger generations means that the language will become extinct. Some of the endangered indigenous languages spoken in Argentina include Vilela (20 speakers), Puelche (5 to 6), Tehuelche (4), Selk’nam (1 to 3).