My experience learning Catalan


In this post, I’d love to share my experience learning Catalan with you. In fact, after reading this, you might even consider learning some of your own! Now, you might think: why would I need learn Catalan? Well, possibly one or more of the general advantages to learn any language apply to you:

  • Digging into a new structure could feel like solving a puzzle
  • A new language can help you
  • Bilinguals have a smaller chance of getting Alzheimer’s [Source]
  • A new language can bridge the gap with locals (especially in the case of Catalan!)

Why I wanted to learn Catalan

I enrolled for an Erasmus (exchange) programme in Barcelona, Spain. Why? To be honest, cause the city name appealed to me. Although I had visited Spain dozens of times, I had never been to my new city of residence. I was being inquisitive in, let’s say, the other cultural aspects of metropolitan life as a student without being investigative about the region Catalonia or its capital or language. Once the academic year started, I even registered for courses in Spanish. Anyone who has done the same, is laughing with me at this point. All courses that I had signed up for, except for one about Latin American History, were in Catalan. Those classes taught me one big lesson, before even addressing its content (in Catalan): Many Catalan people want you to speak their language. Acknowledging their language is a way to respect them as a people.

Now, for the record, I made just as many friends in Barcelona who shared that national thought as others who were perfectly fine with guiris (as foreigners are friendly being referred to) who just spoke Spanish. But if you don’t want to be limited in taking courses, getting jobs and building relationships, my advice would be to learn Catalan.

Being immersed in the language because I had to obtain credits for the courses that appeared to be Catalan-speaking, I “had to” learn the language. It was amazing to learn my first language without taking a course, but by simply using existing language knowledge. The combination of my high-school French, Latin, Spanish (and even 70% of English vocabulary that has a Roman origin) helped me understand the language. Once I started to recognize the phonetic pattern changes I could apply them to pan-Roman which actually happened to be relatively easy for that historical, economic or philosophical content. Let me show you and simultaneously challenge you to understand the following text in Catalan, before reading the English translation below that.

La comparació de llengües romanes és interessant. L’origen llatí comú de francès, italià, espanyol, portuguès, romanès i parcialment anglès és detectable en l’estructura gramatical, lèxica, fonètica i altres idiomes de la llengua catalana.

The comparison of Roman languages is interesting. The common Latin origin of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and partially English is detectable in the grammatical, lexical, fonetic and other linguistic structure of the Catalan language.

This doesn’t mean that I could speak Catalan fluently after those classes. But maybe you’re more of a natural than I am: Oi nen, voleu prendre un vi amb mi demà al vespre?

According to (often incorrect) Google translate, that would be: ‘Hey man, do you want to have a wine with me tomorrow evening?’

Now, I hope that more colloquial sentence which might also look stranger to you than the more recognizable academic formal language doesn’t discourage you to follow my steps in my Romance language quest and learn (some) Catalan yourself one day.

If you want to learn Catalan, the Generalitat de Catalunya, the main governing body of Catalonia, helps guiris to learn Catalan. You can find more information on their website regarding [Catalan courses]. One of their campaign websites is [Parla.Cat] which can also be read in English, French, German, Catalan and yes… even in Spanish.

I’d be happy to read any questions. Feel free to leave any comments below.