What You Should Know about Catalan And Spanish
When it comes to languages in Spain, there’s a lot more than just Spanish. And If you’ve been learning about Spain and especially about Catalonia, then you’ve probably heard about the Catalan language. But what exactly makes Catalan and Spanish different? They are two separate languages with their own history, grammar, and traditions. And to explain this better, this article will cover
- The origins of Catalan and Spanish
- How different Catalan and Spanish grammar are
- How the two languages are used differently
Where Catalan and Spanish are Spoken
You’ve probably already somewhat familiar with Spanish’s position as a world language. Today it’s spoken in more than 20 countries around the world and especially in Spain as well as South and Central America.
As you might expect, Catalan is primarily spoken in and around the Comunidad Autónoma of Catalonia (known as ‘Catalunya’ in Catalan). In fact there, schools teach the majority of subjects in Catalan and when you visit a city like Barcelona, you’re bound to see loads of signs in Catalan. The language is also spoken extensively in the Balearic Islands. In both Comunidades Autónomas, Catalan has been the co-official language with Spanish since 1975. It’s also spoken in the small country of Andorra where it’s the official language. Catalan is not spoken in Madrid and neither in Valencia. Catalan is taught at Universities in Spain, although mainly in Barcelona.
Aside from this, there’s also the region of Valencia. However, this is a bit complicated. While many linguists and Valencianos agreed that Catalan and Valencian are essentially the same language, there are many people in Valencia who insist that they are different. As such, the two languages of Valencia are Spanish and Valencian.
This gives Catalan more than 10 million speakers in total. And this makes it the world’s 6th most widely spoken Romance language.
Where did Spanish and Catalan come from?
Catalan and Spanish are both classified as Romance languages. So like French, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese, they have their roots in Latin. However, Catalan and Spanish have been separate languages for a very long time.
Spanish formed from language varieties spoken on the Iberian peninsula (which also gave rise to Portuguese and Galician). However Catalan formed in conjugation with the Occitian language, a Romance language spoken in southeast France. As such, many linguists consider Catalan to be more closely related to French than to Spanish.
Similarities and Differences between Catalan and Spanish
Since Catalan and Spanish are both Romance languages they share a lot in common in terms of vocabulary and grammar. You can see the similarities in many words.
Bona tarda buenas tardes ‘good afternoon’
Adéu adiós ‘goodbye’
Gat gato ‘cat’
Formació formación ‘formation’
In terms of grammar, the two languages are also very similar. Word order is essentially the same between the two languages. And for both Catalan and Spanish nouns, adjectives, and articles change according to number and gender as you can see in the two sentences below.
aquesta dona és la bona professora esta mujer es la buena profesora
‘This woman is the good professor’
aquest home és el bon professor este hombre es el buen profesor
‘This man is the good professor’
Verbs function quite similarly with the two languages and have a huge overlap in both their tenses and how they are formed. For example both languages have a future tense that’s formed by adding something onto the infinitive.
cantaré cantaré ‘I will sing’
cantará cantarà ‘s/he will sing’
cantremos cantarem ‘we will sing’
However, this doesn’t mean that learning one language means just applying a few rules to the other. If you visit Barcelona, some of the first Catalan words you’re likely to learn are sortida and carrer, which are quite different from their Spanish counterparts. As the languages have their own histories, many basic words in Spanish and Catalan are completely different.
Sortida salida ‘exit’
Carrer calle ‘street’
Blau azul ‘blue’
Voler querer ‘to want’
Parlar hablar ‘to speak’
Similarly, Catalan and Spanish grammar are similar but not the same. For example, Catalan has a verb tense not found in any other Romance language known as periphrastic preterite.
Catalan and Spanish
When it comes to language in Spain, there’s a lot more than just Spanish. Among Spain's several different regional languages, Catalan is the largest. And although the two languages are related and similar, they are distinct tongues with their own stand-alone histories and traditions.