Si us plau, parla’m en català! – Please, speak to me in Catalan!
Catalan evolved from Vulgar Latin in the Pyrenee mountains around the 9 th century. It became the language of culture and trade in the Mediterraean in Middle Ages when Catalonia formed part of the great empire of the Crown of Aragon. Catalan also saw a fifty-year- long literary revival in the 19 th century referred to as Renaixença. Despite its bold and expansionist beginnings, the use of the language was banned many times in history. When Spain ceded Northern Catalonia to France in 1659, French became the only fully recognised language in the region, and so it remains until this day, to the frustration of Catalan speakers in the region. Catalan was also banned during a long part of Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1946). The culture repressed, local institutions dissolved, local press abolished- the francoist times saw speakers of Catalan imprisonned, exiled or even executed. Children could not have Catalan names. Catalan has been recognised as an official language after Spain’s post- Franco transition to democracy (1975-1982). Speakers of Catalan actually form the largest bilingual non- state speech group in the whole of Europe.
Speakers of Catalan actually form the largest bilingual non- state speech group in the whole of Europe. Wait…bilingual? Yes.
Por favor – Spanish
S’il vous plaît – French
Si us plau – Catalan
The vocabulary and grammar clearly points to closer links with French than Spanish here, but what is also important is the pronunciation- like in French and unlike in Spanish, there is no lisp in Catalan! Think Manuel from Fawlty Towers- he said he was from Barthelona, not Barselona. It’s likely to say Manuel’s family have been Castilian immigrants. Well, as long as he doesn’t mention the war! For the last thirty years, democratic Catalan institutions have attempted to protect and promote the use of Catalan. This linguistic normalisation signified a multitude of campaigns and initiatives encouraging the use of the language. You can even go to free classes in the summer now! They organise them just down the road from the Bicilona city centre base, on Carrer d’Avinyó or -in Castilian Spanish- Calle d’Avinyó.