One thing that surprises most tourists when they are staying in Barcelona, is the fact that most locals tend to speak a language other than Spanish. Not only is Spanish not the majority spoken language in Barcelona, but it is one of four languages used in the region and considered official languages of Catalonia.
Consider brushing up on your Catalan and Occitan languages along with your Spanish, the next time you come to Catalonia. In this article ShBarcelona will provide you with the basics of the language and a few historical facts.
Related article: Can you work in Barcelona if you don’t speak Spanish?
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Catalan language and its history
Barcelona is located in Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain. Catalonia is actually a specific region that refers to the northeast portion of Spain as well as parts of the bordering areas of France and Andorra.
This area was once its own “Principality of Catalonia” with its own distinct borders, peoples, customs, Royal Court and language. The development of the area with its own language and customs can be traced back to the seventh century with a definitive development of the Count of Barcelona by the ninth century. During the Francoist Dictatorship years, Catalan culture, including institutions and language, was repressed and banned from official use.
Since the transition to democracy starting in 1975, Catalonia has recovered politically and culturally to become an autonomously governed region of Spain and now has three official spoken languages, including Catalan, Spanish, and an Occitan dialect called Aranese, and one sign language, Catalan sign language. Knowing the difference will help when needing to speak to a local in Barcelona.
The Catalan language
Although many believe that Catalan as a language is a subset of Spanish, it is actually a Roman language derived from common Latin around the eastern Pyrenees in the ninth century.
In fact, the language shows more differentiation from Spanish and Portuguese, Ibero-Roman languages, than it does with Gallo-Roman languages of French, Italian, and Occitan.
In other words, Catalan is more closely related to the second group of languages than the first. Although Catalan is spoken by most Catalonians, the majority within Barcelona speak Spanish or a plurality of both languages, whereas in the outlying areas of Catalonia more people speak Catalan.
Learning a few phrases in Catalan will ensure that you can get the basics no matter where you are. Catalan is also spoken in the Balearic Islands to the east of the mainland as well as Valencia.
Related article: Interesting Catalan traditions
Learning a few phrases of the local languages, especially if you will be living in the city for a while, will help you find the most important things when on vacation, such as washrooms, restaurants, shopping and alcoholic beverages. Below are a few of the most important phrases in Catalan.
- Hello Hola, Bon dia
- Do you speak English? Que parla angles?
- Excuse me Dispensi! Perdoni!
- Sorry Perdo! Em sap greu
- Where’s the toilet? On es el lavabo?
- How much is this? Quant costa aixo?
- Nice to meet you. Molt de gust.
There are many more phrases to learn when visiting this unique part of the world, since you may run into local Barcelonians that may speak Catalan and not Spanish. Understanding how to get back to your holiday or student apartment in Barcelona from a Catalan speaker should be required knowledge.
What do you think of the Catalan language? Do you know a few words?