Catalan language in Barcelona and Catalonia
Catalan language bold beginnings
Catalan language evolved from Vulgar Latin in the Pyrenee mountains around the 9th century. It became the language of culture and trade in the Mediterraean in Middle Ages. This was when Catalans lived under 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.
No children with Catalan names
When Spain ceded Northern Catalonia to France in 1659, French became the only fully recognised language in the region. It stayed this way until this day and Catalan speakers in the region are frustrated. Catalan was also banned during a long part of Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1946). The culture repressed, local institutions dissolved, local press abolished. Franco supporters imprisonned, exiled or even executed speakers of Catalan. Children could not have Catalan names.
Catalan versus Spanish in Catalonia
Catalan has been recognised as an official language after Spain’s post- Franco transition to democracy (1975-1982). Speakers of the Catalan language actually form the largest bilingual non- state speech group in the whole of Europe. Wait…bilingual? Yes, the 2013 language government census shows exactly that. In the census, only people who lived in Catalonia for 15 years answered the questions. Out of them, almost 47% claim Spanish is their first language and 37% say it’s Catalan. 12% of the interviewees said they use both daily equally. People speak Spanish more in the Barcelona metropolitan area. That, and people speak Catalan more in smaller towns and rural areas. Why?
Spain exploded in terms of economy the 1960s. Catalonia became very industrialised. Therefore, thousands of Castillan-speaking workers came to Barcelona in search for a better life. The boom was so significant all over Spain it saw TV ownership rocket from 1% to 90% of the population in ten years! Also, it changed Barcelona’s linguistic map forever. People even gave the district of Poblenou were most factories were located a new nickname in the 1960s: Catalan Manchester. Nowadays, Barcelona is much less industrial. However, you can still see otherworldly factory remains on your way outside the city through Poblenou towards the natural beaches of Badalona.
The Catalan language has common traits with Romance languages such as Italian, Spanish and Sardinian. Linguists say this: the vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar all suggest a closer relationship with Occitan and French. Let’s see what all this means. One great example of this is the word Please:
Por favor – Spanish
S’il vous plaît – French
Si us plau – Catalan
Definitely, the words and the grammar point more to French than Spanish here. But what is also important is the pronunciation, let’s not forget. Like in French and unlike in Spanish, the lisp does not exist in the Catalan language. 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…
Free classes of Catalan
For the last thirty years, democratic Catalan institutions have attempted to protect and promote the use of Catalan language. This meant 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.