Catalan and Spanish

Spanish CatalanOur school is located in Barcelona, a great destination to study Spanish. However, if you are an expat living in Barcelona already, or if you’re moving soon, you should bear in mind that Spanish is not the only languagespoken in this area: there is Catalan, too.Catalan and Spanish are quite similar regarding vocabulary, so even if you know little Spanish and you come across these texts in Catalan, you’ll probably be able to read them:

Catalan > Spanish (English)
sortida > salida (exit)
obert > abierto (open)
caixa > caja (checkout, register)
plaça > plaza (square)
carrer > calle (street)
gratuït > gratis (free)

Despite these similarities, there are also words which are very different in the two languages:

tancat > cerrado (closed)
pernil > jamón (ham)
formatge > queso (cheese)
tonyina > atún (tuna)
avui > hoy (today)
demà > mañana (tomorrow)

If written, you can tell if it’s Spanish or Catalan by looking for these characteristic letters. Catalan has these combinations of letters, which Spanish doesn’t: ss, ig, ç, l·l, tll, tx, tj, tg, tz, ny, etc. Also, in certain cases, Catalan may contract articles like d’ or l’, which you won’t see that in Spanish. Additionally, Catalan can have accents both to the right and to the left (à, è-é, í, ò-ó, ú).

passejar > pasear
mig > medio
cotxe > coche
tranqil·la > tranquila
ametlla > almendra
platja > playa
metge > médico
utilitzar > utilizar
muntanya > montaña
diari d’avui > periódico de hoy
l’illa > la isla

demà > mañana (tomorrow)
cafè > café (coffee)
bé > bien (well)
matí > mañana (morning)
arròs > arroz (rice)
camió > camión (truck)
algú > alguien (someone)

Finally, pronunciation is also quite different and it causes the main communication problems. Catalan has a wider range of vowels, as one can see from the number of accents, each has a different sound, and in areas other than Barcelona there are even more vowel sounds. Also, all those letters and consonants Spanish doesn’t have, they have their pronunciation too, which is usually hard for Spanish native speakers to make.

Listen to the words in Catalan listed in this article

How do you differentiate Catalan and Spanish? Do you know more words similar in the two languages?

Let us know in the comments!


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