The Language

There are two official languages of Catalonia: Spanish and Catalan. While many people think that Catalan is a Spanish dialect, it’s actually its own separate and distinct language that has many similarities to other romance languages such as Portuguese, French, and Italian. Today, both Spanish and Catalan can be heard throughout the region, with a moderate amount of English, as well.

The Catalan language evolved from Latin, and during the Middle Ages was widely spoken across many Mediterranean areas. However, following French control of the region in the 17th century and the subsequent reconquering by the Spanish, the use of the language steadily declined. As it stands today, Spanish is the dominant language in Spain, although Catalan is still present in smaller villages and towns throughout Catalonia.

A determination to remain relevant is a very fascinating aspect of Catalan. In fact, the language is such a fighter that even after use of the language had declined significantly by the 19th century, it still thrived as a literary language for quite some time. Writer Ramon Llull, lyricist Berenguier de Palazol, and poet Raimon Vidal all composed famous works in Catalan, which are still referenced to this day.

It is not necessary to be fluent in Catalan or Spanish to visit Catalonia. In fact, in the coastal areas of the region with large numbers of foreign visitors and in other large cities like Barcelona, many shops, bars, and restaurants will usually have some English-speaking staff. However, it never hurts to learn a few words and phrases, and any attempt made by visitors to use native languages (however poor the attempt may be!) is always appreciated by the local residents.

Believe it or not, learning Catalan isn’t just useful for visiting the Catalonia region of Spain. There’s actually a number of other areas where Catalan is widely spoken, including Valencia, Andorra, the Balearic Islands, and even some areas of Italy, France, and Sardinia. Overall, it’s estimated that there are around 9 million people in the world who speak Catalan.

The good news is that if you’re somewhat familiar with Spanish, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to pick up some basic Catalan. As you can see, there are quite a few similarities between the two languages:


English Spanish Catalan
Hello! Hola Hola
Good day Buenos días Bon dia
Good evening Buenas tardes Bona tarda
Good night Buenas noches Bona nit
Good bye Adiós Adeu
See you later Hasta luego Fins desprès
Please Por favor Si us plau
Thank you Gracias Gràcies / Merci
Yes Si Si
No No No
Of course Claro Es clar
Excuse me Perdona Disculpeu
I’m sorry Lo siento Ho sento
I don’t know No sé No ho se
Have a good holiday Qué tenga buenas vacaciones Que tingeu bones vacances
Where is Dónde esta On esta
How much is.. Cúanto cuesta… Quant es..
How do I get to Cómo se va a … Com puc anar a …
Help me please Ayúdame por favor Ajuda’m si us plau
I don’ speak Spanish/Catalan No hablo castellano No parlo català
Do you speak English? Habla usted ingles? Parla voste anglès?
I’m English / American Soy inglés / americano Soc anglès / americà