You might ask us “why should I know five facts about Catalan?” and here we are to solve your doubts. As you may know, Catalunya has a great history full of traditions and if you’re planning to live in a shared flat in Barcelona, learning some Spanish may not be enough and won’t get you very far if you wish to get to know more the locals and their customs.
Before telling you 5 interesting facts about the Catalan, a little run-through of the history of this particular language, famous not only in Spain, but all around the World!
As the other Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and Romanian), it developed from Latin, the language spoken by the Western Roman Empire. In particular, Catalan comes from the version of Latin spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, or better, a variant of this idiom, called Vulgar Latin (a non-standard kind), which originated all the other Romance languages spoken in modern Europe.
5 INTERESTING FACTS
1) Officialdom - Catalan has a complicated history to tell, it saw a long period of decline in 16th and 17th century and then a long ban during the Francoist period, but nowadays it finds “peace”: its use it’s regulated by laws. Indeed, Catalonia law requires that teachers, doctors, and public office workers speak both Spanish and Catalan.
2) Speakers - Catalan has over 9 million people worldwide who speak it. More than 4 million speak it as a native language in several parts of Spain (but in different dialects) and of those who speak it natively, almost all are bilingual!
3) Dialects - Do not think that Catalan is nothing more than a Spanish dialect, because not only it’s an actual language itself, but it gave rise to 6 more dialects mainly divided into Eastern and Western Catalan (and correspond to different areas):
- Valencian - spoken in Valencia (that actually is now more than a dialect, it’s a language itself);
- Northwestern Catalan - spoken in some areas around Lleida, Tarragona and La Franca;
- Central Catalan - spoken in Barcelona and Girona;
- Rousellonese - spoken in the Roussillon area in France;
- Balearic - spoken in the Balearic Islands;
- Alguerese - spoken in Alghero, a little town in Sardegna, Italy.
4) Ban - Catalan was banned in Spain till 1975. In order to promote a universal Spanish nationality, Francisco Franco banned all the other languages beside the Spanish within Spain (castellano). The ban prohibited to give Catalan names to the newborn and to the streets; monuments’ Catalan names were re-entitled with Castilian names. Tv shows, movies and music had to be produced in the official language and was strictly forbidden to speak Catalan in public (even punished!).
5) Relatives - You may not believe it, but since all the Romance languages have their origin in Latin (as we mentioned in our little history refresher), Catalan is more similar to French - Occitane specifically - than to Spanish. The two languages share a lot of similarities, like mati, morning in Catalan, and matin, the French equivalent, way different from the Spanish mañana.
Now that you know the basic facts about this beautiful language you’re ready to live fully your adventure in Barcelona, totally dipped in the local traditions.
See you soon,
Your helpBarcelona team