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what language do they speak in Barcelona

What Language Do They Speak in Barcelona | Everything You Need to Know

by Christian Petzold - updated February 7, 2022

You’re going to Barcelona for a vacation. Ever wondered how many languages or what language do they speak in Barcelona? 

Learning about the different languages before you travel is a great way to get more out of your experience. Some locals may speak English with you when they find out you’re not Spanish, but more pride is attached to being fluent in one of the four recognized languages in Barcelona. 

A history lesson aside, you will find the locals are very friendly and can easily converse with foreign tourists. In this article, we’ll look at the evolution of the languages in Barcelona, the multiculturalism of Barcelona, and finally, some of the essential words to get by when you’re visiting. 

Use of Languages in Barcelona: Catalan and Spanish

Barcelona Center

Barcelona is a multilingual city with over 300 languages spoken along its streets, reflecting its diverse history and proximity to other countries. In total, there are two official languages in Barcelona. These include Catalan (català) and Spanish/Castilian (Castellano). The other two are Galician (gallego) and Basque (Vasco). 

Most of Barcelona’s people consider themselves bilingual, meaning they can easily transition from Catalan to Spanish, even if most of them prefer using Catalan more often than Spanish. And due to high education levels and the importance of tourism in the city, there are a lot of people who can also transition to English with no problem.

Catalan

Catalan is an integral aspect of Catalan culture and one of the two most important languages in Barcelona, as it plays a significant role in the daily lives of Catalan citizens.

For example, many aspects of Catalan culture depend on knowing all the Catalan language’s subtleties and nuances. Many customs are shared among Catalonians that some of these words carry meaning only if they speak it in their native language. 

What Language Do They Speak in Barcelona: Catalan

Catalan is the language used in schools, where Spanish and foreign languages, typically English, are taught as secondary languages. Catalan is also the official language of municipal government organizations and institutions. So if you plan on living here, you’d need to learn more about the Catalan language.

Spanish

One of the most widely used native languages in the world and is extensively spoken in Barcelona. It is also worth noting that a sizable portion of Barcelona’s population are migrants from different parts of Spain who use Spanish as their first and daily language. If you know some basic Spanish words, you can chat with locals as soon as you arrive as it’s one of the most spoken languages in Barcelona.

What Language Do They Speak in Barcelona: Spanish

To put it another way, knowing Catalan will simplify your visit to Catalonian society. This qualification can also open doors for you in terms of your professional, commercial, social, and personal life, as well as permitting you to take advantage of a large and diversified selection of recreational and cultural opportunities that represent the city’s 2000-year history.

What Language Do They Speak in Barcelona: The History

Catalan is spoken in and around Barcelona and in other parts of Spain such as Valencia, the Balearic Islands (including Majorca), and even Provence or eastern France. Since the 10th century, Catalan was first written down in the 11th century.

Barcelona With Friends

This was called “Llibre de les paraules” (Book of words). From here on, it evolved accordingly, though facing much persecution during Spanish rule. Today, Catalan is spoken by over 7 million people and is considered a minority language in Spain (Castilian is the majority). 

Catalan as the Official Language in Catalonia

Catalan was forbidden from 1939 until 1975, under Franco’s military rule. You’d even have to speak in Spanish when making a phone call back then.

Meanwhile, Montserrat’s monastery kept teaching the language and in 1979, the government recognized Catalan as an individual language and became the official language of Catalonia. In 1983, the Balearic Islands followed the movement, and by 1993, the state of Andorra also made Catalan their official language. Following 1983, Catalan became widely taught in schools and universities.

Today, there are about 10 Catalan daily newspapers.

Learning Catalan and Spanish

If you’re interested in learning Catalan and Spanish, keep in mind that they are both Romance languages, which means they are related languages. Suppose you already know a bit of French, Italian, or any other Latin-based language.

In that case, it will give you an edge when studying the official languages in Barcelona.

Greetings and Pleasantries

Even if you have a good command of the Spanish language, you’ll want to learn these Catalan phrases so that you can make a lasting impression when you visit Barcelona.

  • Hello – Bon dia (bon dee-ah)
  • Thank you – Merci (Mehr-see) 
  • You’re welcome – De res (deh res)
  • Goodbye – Adéu (ah-deh-ou) 
  • Please – Si us plau (see oos plow)

Learn Catalan with One Minute Languages!

At the Market 

  • What is this? – Que es això?
  • How much does this cost? – Quant costa això? (Kwant-kosta-Eashoh?)

Making Friends

  • Do you speak English? –  Parla anglès? (Pahr-luhs uhn-Glehs?)
  • Would you like a drink? – T’agradaria beure alguna cosa? (tah-grah-dah-ree-ah beh-ur al-goo-nah coh-sah)

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

  • What is Catalonia?
    • Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities and is on the Mediterranean coast in the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is split into 17 separate independent communities or regions. Each of these territories is subject to Spanish political and administrative authority, and these regions form the Spanish nation. 
  • Where does Barcelona fit into all of this?
    • Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital city.
  • What is the “Catalan language”?
    • Catalan language is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. Outside of Spain, it is Andorra’s official language. Additionally, it is spoken in some regions in France and Italy.
  • Is Catalan some sort of Castilian Spanish?
    • No Catalan is not some sort of Castilian Spanish. Catalan is a language of its own. It is not derived from Spanish or even French, even though many people believe Catalan sounds like a combination of the two. Catalan developed from common Latin. This explains Catalan’s similarities to French, Spanish, and even Italian, as all of these languages are classified as Romance languages, which descended from Latin.
  • What language is more spoken in Barcelona – Catalan or Castilian Spanish?
    • Both. 98% of Barcelona’s population speaks Castilian Spanish. Catalan is spoken by around 50%-60% of Barcelona’s entire population. Certain Catalan speakers expressed Catalan as a first language and regarded Castilian Spanish as a “second language.” Some Catalans consider Spanish their first language, while they consider Catalan their second. Sometimes, Catalan speakers speak no other language, not even Spanish. 

Author’s Note

If you plan on visiting Barcelona, it’s beneficial to know about the language. Some of the most common languages in Barcelona are Catalan and Castilian Spanish.

These two languages are similar. And as you study them, you will grow your appreciation for the Spanish language, making you a better prospect for learning all Barcelona has to offer. 

Find out how to travel like a local with these useful guides to Barcelona:

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