Spoken language is a very prominent and controversial topic here in Barcelona. Obviously, with Spanish being the official language of Spain, everyone here is fluent in Spanish. Furthermore, the city of Barcelona is situated inside an autonomous region of the country, called Catalonia. Here the people also speak a different language: Catalán. When I say different, I’m not talking about a dialect or something like this. Completely different.
In the time of Franco, Spanish (Castellano) was the only language that the people were allowed to speak or teach in the schools. Amazingly, the Catalans continued speaking their own language with their families in the privacy of their homes. Finally in the 80s, Catalan was allowed back on the streets and in classrooms, so it’s not surprising that it came back with more fervor than ever. I kid you not, every single street sign, restaurant sign, and advertisement is in Catalan. It’s the law.
The root of everything in this bilingual struggle is totally political. Spain has one of the worst economies in Europe, yet the Catalonia region is very wealthy in comparison with the rest of the country. The Catalans are fed up with having to pay higher taxes to support up the rest of Spain, while they see no increase in their salaries. Having a king whom they must support financially, yet feel is useless, doesn’t help matters either. Maintaining their language after all this struggle shows their pride in their heritage. The rest of Spain might see them as close-minded, selfish, and elitists, but they do have some very valid points. Now, to be fair, actually managing to break off and become their own country anytime soon is something I’m highly skeptical of.
Sorry to get into the politics of it, but it is an issue that is in my face daily, so it is something I’ve taken much notice of. It is also the reason that the language is so strong here. The neat part to me is that everyone in this area is bilingual, down to even the very young schoolchildren. I have zero problem talking to people in Castellano on the streets or in restaurants, and I do feel that my Spanish has improved while being here. With that being said, I’m not sure how likely is it that I will also be able to pick up Catalan, too. Being exposed to it all around, it feels more like a strange version of French blended with some Italian with a tiny bit of Spanish on top. Oh well, it’s all good 🙂
It helps to see the difference if you have some background in Spanish, but nonetheless here are some examples of what I’m talking about. It’s still a Romantic language, so it similar but there are major differences. Enjoy.