Saharan Spanish

Saharan Spanish (Spanish: español saharaui) is the variety of the Spanish language spoken in Western Sahara and adjacent regions. This non-native variety is heavily influenced by both Spanish cultural links and a strong expatriate community who live in Spain and Hispanic America, particularly Cuba.


World map with Spain and Western Sahara highlighted
World map with Cuba and Western Sahara highlighted
An arch welcoming visitors in Arabic and Spanish to the museum
Western Sahara and former colonial power Spain (above) and frequent source of expatriate education Cuba (mid). A sign welcomes visitors to the People's Liberation Army Museum, a military museum in the Sahrawi refugee camps, in Arabic and Spanish.
Sahrawi woman teaching Spanish in one of the Tindouf refugee camps.
School in Bir Lehlu.

Although the native and dominant languages in Western Sahara are Hassaniya Arabic and some Berber languages, Spanish was introduced by settlers in Spanish West Africa and Spanish Sahara in the 19th century.

Current usage and legal status

Spanish still influences Sahrawi society today and is the preferred second language for acquisition and government.[1] Although Arabic and Spanish are both official languages of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Arabic is the sole official language in their constitution and the republic only uses Spanish for radio and TV broadcasts[2] and state journalism.[3]

Spanish vocabulary has entered Hassaniya, particularly in fields related to agriculture, automobiles, diet, and sanitation.[4] These loanwords are reinforced due to Sahrawis studying abroad in Hispanic lands and returning to either Western Sahara or the Sahrawi refugee camps.[4]

National Sahrawi Police.
Emergency room.
Sale of products in a Dajla pharmacy, note that the posters are in Spanish.
Coins of 2 Sahrawi pesetas with inscriptions in Spanish.


Regarding the lexicon, the preference for Hispanisms in the framework of technique and tools has been documented, just as other countries have opted for solutions of the colonizing language such as English or French.

Hispanisms used by the Saharawi community[5]
Lexical field Originating loanword
Tools enchufe
Automobiles/Transportation coche
caja de cambio
tubo de escape
Sport defensa
Furniture mueble
Health/Medicine dispensario
Education biblioteca
Food pera
Clothing chaqueta

See also


  1. ^ Knoerrich, Isabel A. "Language, Identities, and Cultures Between Spain and Morocco". In Jungbluth, Judith; Meierkord, Chrisitane (eds.). Identities in Migration Contexts. Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen. p. 118. ISBN 978-3-8233-6317-0.
  2. ^ "Western Sahara profile". BBC. 14 May 2018.
  3. ^ "About Us". Sahara Press Service.
  4. ^ a b Budda, Abdurrahaman (2012). "El español en África". Association of Academies of the Spanish Language.
  5. ^ [ El español en los países árabes en Fiape: I Congreso internacional, Toledo (2005)]

Further reading

  • Aaiun, gritando lo que se siente. Antología poética (2006), published by the University of Madrid, ISBN 8461117220
  • Awah, Bahia Mahmud. Literatura del Sahara Occidental. Breve estudio (2008), ISBN 978-84-612-8912-7
  • Awah, Bahia Mahmud. Tiris, rutas literarias (April 2016), published by Última Línea, ISBN 9788416159239
  • Awah, Bahia Mahmud. Versos refugiados (2007), published by Universidad Alcalá De Henares, ISBN 978-84-88754-26-4
  • Awah, Bahia Mahmud and Moya, Conchi. El porvenir del español en el Sahara Occidental (2009), ISBN 978-84-613-0943-6
  • Budda, Abdurrahaman. Huellas del castellano en el dialecto del hassaniyya saharaui (2012).
  • Gil, Victoria Retratos saharauis (2011)
  • San Martin, Pablo and Bollig, Ben (eds.) Los colores de la espera : Antología de nueva poesía sahraui (2011), published in Hudson by Comodoro Rivadavia, ISBN 978-987-24042-5-3
  • Treinta y uno, Thirty-One : Antología poetíca (2007), published by Sandblast and the University of Leeds, ISBN 978-84-8053-474-1.
  • Um Draiga : Poesía sahraui contemporánea (2007), published in Zaragoza by Um Draiga.
  • VerSáhara, 2016. Varios autores canarios y saharauis (November 2016), published by Cuadernos de La Gueldera, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, ISBN 978-84-617-6174-6

External links

  • Um Draiga, a Sahrawi expatriate organization in Spain that publishes Spanish-language Sahrawi literature and poetry (in Spanish)

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