Want to learn Catalan? Follow the Suitelife guide to learning Barcelona’s second official language.
If you want to learn Catalan, then it could potentially be one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences when coming to visit or live in Barcelona. Simply knowing some basic words and phrases will unlock a whole new side to this incredible city. With the buzzword of the day being ‘independence’ and with the Catalan language being classified as a minority language within the EU (despite having more speakers of it than more famous languages like Danish), your efforts are increasingly likely to be more appreciated than perhaps anywhere else in Europe. And where better to learn Catalan than in the Catalan capital itself?
A better question is – what is Catalan not? For sure, it’s not a dialect of Spanish and it is not a lovechild of French and Spanish. It is a language in it’s own right and has about 11 million speakers in Catalonia, Andorra, Valencia, some areas of Southern France and even an area of Sardinia, Italy! If you’re fortunate enough to have a grasp of the basics of Spanish, French, Italian and/or Portuguese then you are in a great position to start to learn Catalan!
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It all depends entirely on your motivations and what you want! If you know at least the basics of Spanish (or Castellano as it’s known in Catalonia), then you will get by in Barcelona just as well as anywhere in Spain. Lots of people speak reasonable English too. If you are living in Barcelona for a few months or longer then knowing some basic Catalan will make the city feel more homely and will also serve you well in day to day things such as understanding utility bills, medical forms and other official paperwork as well as advertisements and signs in public places.
Being an international city, Barcelona is full of language schools which offer a variety of courses. The main problem is that language schools can be an expensive and inflexible way to learn Catalan especially for those who work or study here in Barcelona. The Universitat de Barcelona for example offers Catalan classes all year round for students and non students, but prices start at 60 euros to 160 euros for UB students and from 160 euros to 210euros for non students, so you will need a lot of dedication if you wish to learn Catalan.
Fear not though! There are ways to learn Catalan which offer more flexibility at a minimal cost (and some which are free!) Want to find out how? Read on!
1. The popular and traditional classroom method – Lessons from the Generalitat
Why we like it – free tuition (for basic courses), benefits of learning from a native speaker, formal, potential to earn a qualification.
The Generalitat (Catalan Government) offer free Catalan courses (basic courses only) to anybody wishing to learn in a bid to promote the Catalan culture amongst non-Catalan residents of Barcelona. Lessons are given in Catalan so you get used to hearing the language straight away. Unfortunately, finding information on the Internet was like finding a needle in a haystack, but eventually I found the details on their website (see above link).
The only effort and cost involved with this method is enrolling (which you can do at the Caja Madrid building in Placa Catalunya), going to the classes and purchasing a course book. If you’re serious about learning Catalan then this is a good way of doing so.
2. The Internet method – Livemocha
Why do we like it? – free, super flexible, ability to learn and practice with native speakers, learn at your own pace .
A revolution in language learning and based on the principle that language learning should be accessible to all and shouldn’t be difficult and expensive. Livemocha is a language learning website that combined with the benefits of a community based/social networking site which gives users the opportunity to practice what they learn and get feedback from native speakers. To top this off, learning Catalan is free!
You simply create a log in account (you can do this by integrating your Facebook account too), find the course you want to follow and within minutes you have the world at your fingertips (excuse the pun). Learners can then access vocabulary, grammar, writing, reading, listening, speaking excercises as well as being able to try your new skills out with a native speaker! At the time of writing, Livemocha were developing a smartphone/tablet application, making this an even better way to learn Catalan! If like me, you have no time to do a formal course, then this is a brilliant way to start. Personally, I’ve had a very good experience so far!
3. The fun and sociable way – Language exchanges
Why do we like it? – natural way of learning, most flexible, meet local people and make new friends
There is simply no better way to learn a language than having a beer and chatting with a native speaker. For some, it is daunting, but for those willing to get over their inhibitions, there are many Catalan people who are more than happy to share their language over a beverage or two! For those unfamiliar with this method, it is simply where you and a person who natively speaks a language that you wish to learn practice that language for x amount of time and then swap and speak your language (ie: for example, you speak English for an hour and then you swap andtry to speak Catalan for an hour and learn that way).
In an international city like Barcelona, it isn’t difficult to find organised language exchange event in local barsbut are usually only really known by word of mouth. Fortunately, there is a great resource to find such events in the form of Couchsurfing. Whilst being a website where local people give travellers free accommodation, this is also a great way of knowing what is going on in the city and getting in touch with locals. Thankfully, the Barcelona Couchsurfing community are extremely active and provide information of language exchanges happening all over the city.
Overall, a really relaxing and natural way to learn Catalan whilst also making new friends too. Details can be found within the Barcelona group on the Couchsurfing website (above).
So there you have it! These are the best ways to learn Catalan as voted by Suitelife. If you have caught the language bug and want to learn or improve your Spanish, then why not check out our Suitelife sister blog to this one – ‘The best websites for learning Spanish’.
Had a Catalan learning experience? Got any tips? Feel free to share them with us on the comments section or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Bona sort! (Good luck)