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I recently went to Barcelona and found that the people there speak Catalan but not Spanish. Although, I did listen some words that are common in both Spanish and Catalan, still there was also a difference in the accent. I am just curious to know how much different is this language from Spanish? Anyone?

Thanks in advance.

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They speak Spanish. They just opt not to. –  guifa Aug 11 '14 at 15:43
Everyone keeps saying that it's closer to French than Spanish. Great, but when I was in Barcelona I noticed that the word blue is blau in catalan as opposed to azul in Spanish. Blau is also how you say blue in German. I found this very interesting especially considering that no one mentioned such a relationship in this thread. –  Eric Jun 19 at 19:40
It is indeed interesting. All those languages come from Latin. I think that there are two main derived languages. On one hand those like German and English and on the other Spanish, French, Italian, Catalonian, etc... What you mention is interesting from the point languages evolved, but I don't think that it really provides an answer to this question. –  Diego Jun 19 at 20:22
Indeed, blau or similar is almost the same in almost all languages in Europe: See it in the Online Etymology Dictionary –  fedorqui Jun 20 at 9:36
There are other regions like Valencia or Mallorca where speak the language –  Gustavo Jun 22 at 6:59

6 Answers 6

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Catalan is definitely a whole separate language, as in not a dialect of Spanish. It is significantly different. It sounds a bit of mix of Spanish, French and Italian, and in fact it's closer to the later two than to Spanish.

Wikipedia article for Catalan has comparison of these languages.

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Catalan, to me, is like an Italianized form of French. It shares many similarities with Spanish, likely due to its development on the Iberian Peninsula, but it is more similar to French. It is most similar to a language called "Occitan." It is not to difficult to pick up Catalan if you understand Spanish, and it is a good intermediate if you know Spanish and plan on learning French one day but find it too different.

If you study Old Spanish, you will find even more similarity between Catalan and Spanish, in terms of both vocabulary and pronunciation. For example, "son" in Cataln is "fill" and "hijo" in modern Spanish, but "fijo" in Old Spanish. "To leave" in Catalan is "deixar (pronounced "day-shar)" and "dejar (pronounced de-char)" in Modern Spanish, but "dexar (pronounced de-shar)" in Old Spanish.

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Cool insight. +1 –  Sam Kauffman Jun 21 at 3:29

Catalan is probably more closely related to French than Spanish, also it sounds more a mix between Spanish and Portuguese. Grammatically, the structure is almost identical; even someone who only speaks Spanish will be able to understand Catalan if it is spoken slowly and clearly.

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I would say Catalan is as different from Spanish as Galician is, but not as much as Basque, a language completely incomprehensible to Romance-language speakers due to having different roots. But I can understand why you may have been confused initially.

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Where have you read that the Basque language has Celtic origins? I've seen some studies about the Basques (as an ethnicity) being linked to Irish and Welsh, but never any about the language itself. –  Alexis Pigeon Jul 1 '13 at 18:14
@AlexisPigeon True, you are right. It's actually inconclusive as to the true origins of their language, but there is enough evidence to point out that it is a non-Indo-European language. I guess I got swayed by the people when I was Spain: they always made references to themselves and their language as being of Celtic origins. –  Five Points Jul 2 '13 at 3:46

I won't go into details about the linguisitcs (experts in that domain will do a far better job), but just consider my own experience.

I'm French, and I've been living in Barcelona for 10 years. When I arrived here, I knew nothing about Catalan, but I had close to no problem understanding it when written, thanks to the knowledge of both languages (native in Fench and intermediate in Spanish). Some other latin friends of mine (Italian or Portuguese speakers) share more or less the same experience. It's harder for non-latin language speakers.

On the other hand, understanding Catalan when spoken is a totally different thing, and knowing back then French and Spanish was not of much help.

I've not been to any Catalan class, but after 10 years, you get pretty much used to it. I understand it without any issue, and I kind of manage to speak it (but I never found myself in a situation where it was a necessity).

In a nutshell, Catalan and Spanish are totally different languages, specially orally. However, they are close enough for a Spanish/French/Italian/Portuguese speaker to understand without much trouble.

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I'm Spanish. For us Spaniards, Catalan is understandable. The languages are different but pretty close. With a little imagination you can guess the meaning of most words. If you happen to know some French, that will definitely help too.

Problems may arise when it comes to understand native speakers, speaking full-speed, because the accent is very different. But if they speak slowly, you can easily understand them.

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