You are here: barcelona.de > Interesting facts > Barcelona's languages

Barcelona's languages

Barcelona has two official languages

Languages in Barcelona

The region of Catalonia has two official languages. Spanish and Catalan, of which are both spoken. In offices and schools, Catalan is the dominant language. Similarly, many lectures at the University are hold in Catalan.
Road signs and labels e.g. in museums are usually bilingual.

Dictionary for free download

Download the free dictionary with more than 350 key words and phrases.

Visitors to Barcelona come off well with Spanish, although the locals are happy about a greeting in Catalan.
Especially in the tourism sector, many employees speak English. Even the younger people usually know some English. Regarding the elderly residents, you should try out a little French, because some words of the Catalan are very similar to French.

Catalan is an independent language, and not a Spanish dialect, as often assumed. This is an important part of the Catalan self-understanding.

Learning languages in Barcelona

The most effective way of learning a foreign language is, without a doubt, staying in the country where the language is spoken. If you are interested in learning Spanish, it is not a disadvantage to do this in Barcelona, even if Catalan is the second mother tongue.
Despite the cultural and political autonomy of Catalonia, almost all Catalans speak Spanish, often as their first native language. In language schools in Barcelona, you usually have native teachers. To minimise the risk that you talk in German outside school, you can request to stay in a host family or in an apartment with other Spanish students. Also, taking part in excursions after class in which the sights are described in Spanish will be a good training.

Origin and extension

Catalan belongs to the Romance languages. Its origins go back to the 8th and 9th Century in the counties of the Spanish march. In the 12th and 13th Century the language spread down south. With the ending of Jaume I, the Catalan language area was defined. See also history of Barcelona.

Approximately 11 million people live in the Catalan language area. In comparison: Portugal has around 9.8 million inhabitants, Greece 10.6. The language area stretches across Andorra, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia (country), West Strip (Aragon), North Catalonia (France) and Alghero (Sardinia). Catalan is spoken in different dialects.

In total, about 7.3 million people speak Catalan and 9.8 million people understand the language.

From the suppression to the official language

From 1939-1975, during the period of military dictatorship under Franco, Catalan was banned. Even telephone calls had to be carried out in Spanish.
Meanwhile, the language was cultivated in the monastery of Montserrat.
In 1979, Catalan was accepted as an individual language and became the official language in Catalonia. 1983 followed by the Balearic Islands and in 1993 by the state of Andorra. In 1983, a law was passed which made it possible to teach Catalan at schools and universities. In 1998, a conformable subsidy law for the economy and private media followed.
Nowadays, there are 10 Catalan daily newspapers.

Catalan in the multilingual Spain

Besides Castilian, Galician and Basque, Catalan is one out of four official languages in Spain. Approximately 40% of the Spanish population live in areas with two official languages. About 28% live in regions with Catalan as the official language.

Source: Government of the Balearic Islands.


Keyboard shortcuts

Some characters, which occur in the Spanish and Catalan language, are missing on the English keyboard.
However, all characters can be written with a certain key combination.
It is always a combination of "alt"-key and a sequence of numeric characters. Please note that the figures on the number pad should be used (pressing the Alt key down while typing the numeric characters).

ï     Alt+0239
ç    Alt+0231
ñ    Alt+0241
ò    Alt+0242
ó    Alt+0243
ü    Alt+0252 
ì     Alt+0236
í     Alt+0237
¡     Alt+0161 (inverted exclamation
       mark)
¿     Alt+0191
l•l    L + Alt+0183 + L

á, é, ú, à, è, ù first press the " ` " or" ´ "-key, then the the vowel.




Tickets Camp Nou Experience:

New: Tickets directly by E-Mail!
Book here tickets for the Camp Nou Experience.
Take a look behind the scenes of Europe's largest football stadium.

The Barcelona.de gift voucher:

Perfect for birthdays, Christmas and other events. Our gift voucher is redeemable for all services offered in our shop.