Which Languages Are Spoken in Uruguay?
Did you know that Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in Uruguay?
Although this beautiful Latin American country is well-known for its Spanish-speaking population, there are several other languages in Uruguay, as well!
What languages are spoken in Uruguay? From Portuguese to Italian, this country is full of language surprises. Uruguay even has its own dialect called Rioplatense Spanish.
Let’s dive into Uruguay’s history, population, and location to uncover more about how this mix of languages came about.
Uruguay: Language, History, and Population
Uruguay’s history and population tells you a lot about the languages spoken here.
European colonizers occupied Uruguay for centuries. Naturally, these occupants spread their language across the country when they moved there. Many of Uruguay’s native inhabitants were displaced during this time. Sadly, this meant that many native languages and indigenous languages in Uruguay were lost.
As a result, nearly 90% of Uruguay’s current population has Spanish or Italian ancestry. However, descendants of England, Germany, France, and neighboring Argentina also make up a small section of the population.
There is an even smaller part of the population with African ancestry. This is because Europeans brought slaves with them from Africa.
Capital of Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay is a stunning city! Located on the coast, Montevideo provides easy access to the water. This prime location established the city’s importance in the past, leading it to become the nation’s capital.
Montevideo is full of beautiful culture, rich historic sites, and, of course, language!
See also: Montevideo: Language, Activities, and Events
This detailed map gives you an idea of Uruguay’s close positioning to the ocean. Although this country appears small, it played a large role in history. Take a minute to study the map. See if you can spot the capital!
Enjoy some fun facts about this unique country!
- Houses in Uruguay receive unique names
- Uruguay’s motto is Libertad o Muerte (Liberty or Death)
- Uruguay has one of the highest literacy rates in the world
- Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America
Uruguay’s Official Language
Official languages are languages with special status. The government gets to decide which language(s) to declare “official,” based on which ones appear in law, schools, and courts.
Since Uruguay is part of Latin America, it’s no surprise that Spanish is its official language. In fact, over 90% of the population speaks Spanish.
Italian migrants strongly influenced Uruguayan Spanish. Many Italian words are mixed into this country’s Spanish language.
How Spanish Became the National Language
What made Spanish stand out among all the other languages in Uruguay?
The Spanish brought their language over during the era of colonization. The Spanish used Uruguay as a military stronghold due to its access to the ocean.
As the Spanish moved in, the native inhabitants and other Europeans had to leave. This left Spanish as the dominant language. Once Uruguay gained its independence, it kept Spanish as its official language.
Regions Where Spanish is Spoken
Since Spanish is the main language in Uruguay, you find it in every region!
Few people speak English in Uruguay. This creates a great opportunity for you to learn Spanish! Practicing this language will open the door to many wonderful activities for you to try in Uruguay.
Here are some ideas for your trip:
- Art, Soccer, and Steak: The Fascinating Culture of Uruguay
- 5 Cool Things You’ll See in Punta del Este, Uruguay
Language is fluid and always changing. Even though people all over the globe speak Spanish, each country has its own unique style!
The Uruguayan dialect of Spanish is Rioplatense Spanish. Uruguayans even have a different name for normal Spanish! They don’t use the word español, but rather, they call it Castellano (Castilian).
Where Is It Spoken?
Rioplatense Spanish is spoken in the areas around the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay and in the Rio Grande do Sul. This dialect is present in Argentina and Bolivia, as well.
If you travel to Uruguay, you have to make a stop in Argentina on the way. This large country is rich with cowboy culture! Check out these guides for more details:
- A Guide to Argentina Meat Cuts & How to Order Steak
- Gauchos and Estancias: Cowboy Culture of Argentina
Examples of Rioplatense Words
Castilian – el melocotón
Rioplatense – el durazno
Castilian – la patata
Rioplatense – la papa
Castilian – el jersey
Rioplatense – el suéter
Castilian – el coche
Rioplatense – el auto
Castilian – el móvil
Rioplatense – el celular
Castilian – el ordenador
Rioplatense – la computadora
Spanish isn’t the only language in Uruguay!
Portuguese is a notable language here due to Uruguay’s proximity to Brazil. Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world!
However, Portuguese in Uruguay might sound a little bit different. Uruguayan Portuguese is heavily influenced by the Spanish language.
Northern residents near the border of Brazil speak this language. You’ll find them in the city of Rivera enjoying the rolling hills and fresh food.
The word Portuñol comes from the two languages in Uruguay that it combines!
Portuñol is a language that is half Spanish and half Portuguese. Its name is a combination of the words português and español.
This unique language mixture is found at the Uruguayan border with Brazil. Because Portuguese and Spanish speakers mingled here, they created their own local dialect!
Other Languages in Uruguay
There are several other languages in Uruguay besides Spanish and Portuguese!
Italian, German, Catalan, and even Plautdietsch are some of the other languages found in Uruguay.
Of course, only a small portion of the population speaks these languages in Uruguay. Nevertheless, they’re a testament to the rich history of this beautiful country.
Prepare For Your Trip to Uruguay With a Free Spanish Class
Speaking Spanish opens the door to hundreds of travel opportunities! Many countries in Latin America, like Uruguay, use this popular language. In fact, there are more than 20 Spanish-speaking countries across the globe! According to CNN, there are over 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. alone.
If you want to explore stunning countries like Uruguay, then sign up for a free trial class with Homeschool Spanish Academy! Join more than 24,000 Spanish learners by taking the advantage of HSA’s 1-to-1 lessons, great pricing, flexible scheduling, and tailored programs.
Level up your fluency today!
Join one of the 40,000 classes that we teach each month and you can experience results like these
“It’s great being able to interact with native speaking people and having a conversation with them not just doing all the work on paper. It’s also an amazing opportunity to speak with native Spanish-speaking people without having to travel to a native Spanish-speaking country.”
“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve, because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1
“My Son, Heath, is taking the classes. He’s been with Luisa the entire time and we absolutely love her. She is always patient and is a great teacher. Heath’s dad speaks Spanish so they get to have little conversations.”
– William R, Parent of 3
- How To Use the Spanish Verb ‘Parecer’ - February 12, 2023
- How To Write Dates in Spanish - January 28, 2023
- 50 Simple Spanish Questions To Ask in a Conversation (and How To Answer) - January 26, 2023