The official language of Spain is Spanish, and it is spoken all over the country, regardless of the region or specific locality.
Of course, the way Spanish is spoken can differ, as different parts of Spain will have different accents and different ways of saying things.
But did you know that some parts of Spain have a second language?
Some autonomous regions have their own culture and history, which comes with their own language or special dialect, and as a general rule, this language becomes official in the same way that Spanish is, although only within the region in question.
For example, Catalonia has Catalan (which has alternative dialects within Valencia and the Balearic islands), Galicia has Gallego, Asturias has Asturiano, and the Basque country has Vasco!
Plus there are then many other minor languages and dialects spread over Spain, in different niche places.
So depending on where in Spain you visit, you might find that the locals speak something other than Spanish (although they will also speak Spanish), so it’s worth finding this out before you plan the trip!
But…what about Barcelona? It is one of the most popular destinations within Spain. What language do they speak there? Let’s find out!
What Language Is Spoken In Barcelona?
In Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalonia, there are two official languages: Spanish and Catalan.
Both languages are used in equal measure, and most citizens of Barcelona are fully bilingual, able to switch from one to the other without difficulty.
In schools, they also teach both languages. Although if anything, most subjects are imparted fully in Catalan!
The truth is that although everyone will be bilingual, most people in Barcelona will speak Catalan in their everyday life, at home, at school, and at work, so you could say that Catalan is the primary language!
Of course, it then depends on each individual, some speak Spanish primarily, and then Catalan. And given that Barcelona is an incredibly diverse and international city, there are plenty of people whose first language is neither Spanish nor Catalan!
If you plan on staying in Barcelona for a long time, or even living there, then you will absolutely need to learn Catalan.
Although Spanish is equally considered as the official language, Catalan is the institutional language of the region and the language used for all the official bodies of authority and government there.
In fact, for many jobs, it is a requirement to speak Catalan, since most people will communicate solely in this language!
It is important to remember that Catalan as a language is a big part of Barcelona’s identity (and the identity of all of Catalonia as a whole!).
It is intrinsically linked and tied to their culture and history and, therefore, it is something the people are eager to preserve and protect, and defend above all.
There are times in which people might even become offended if you speak to them in Spanish instead of in Catalan!
Although, of course, most people understand that not everyone speaks Catalan, especially when Barcelona is such a hub for people all over the country and the world!
But long story short, both Spanish and Catalan are spoken in Barcelona, with Catalan taking precedence in many situations and everyday life, as it is the native language of the place.
Is It Rude To Speak Spanish In Barcelona?
We’ve briefly mentioned how local people in Barcelona can sometimes get protective over their native language, Catalan, and how they might sometimes be offended if you choose to use Spanish over Catalan.
But does that mean that it’s rude to speak Spanish in Barcelona? What if you don’t speak Catalan?
No need to worry. There is nothing rude about speaking Spanish in Barcelona and it is completely okay and acceptable. Spanish is still an official language in Barcelona, spoken by everyone, so you can use it freely!
In fact, there will be plenty of people in Barcelona that don’t speak Catalan, as it’s a city where people move to from all over the world!
That being said, the only times it might be seen as offensive is if you do speak Catalan and choose not to use it when addressing someone local who prefers to speak in Catalan. But if you explain that you do not speak it, they should be fine!
Are Catalan And Spanish The Same?
Some people have the misconception that Catalan and Spanish are almost the same, and that the only difference is a few words, and the accent. After all, they are both within the same country, so how different can they be, right?
Well, that’s wrong. Catalan and Spanish are two completely different and separate languages, with different vocabulary, grammatical rules, and more.
A Spanish person that does not speak Catalan will not be able to understand Catalan, as it is too different.
Sure, both languages come from Latin, and they share some similarities as they coexist in the same place, and share a lot of history and culture. But they are ultimately different, and not the same in the slightest.
In fact, Catalan as its own language has different sub-dialects spoken in other parts of Spain!
For example, in Valencia they speak a dialect of Catalan, called Valenciano, and in the Balearic Islands, they speak yet another sub-dialect, called Mallorquin.
Ultimately, all of these are still Catalan, but they have a different accent, and some differences in words and grammar, here and there.
But basically, Catalan is its own fully-fledged language, separate from Spanish. They just so happen to co-exist and share similar roots.
How To Learn Catalan
If you find yourself in need to learn Catalan, whether it is because you are going to spend some time in Barcelona, or you are moving there, or simply because you’re interested in the language, then there are many ways you can go about it.
There are the usual ways, such as using phone apps, websites, and online courses. You could also pay for some lessons with a tutor or with a language school.
But if you’re already in Barcelona, then we suggest you make use of the resources that the city provides!
After all, the city, and the entire region of Catalonia as a whole, is eager to have more people learn their language, and so they put in a lot of effort to produce courses and resources that might help!
There are many free online and in-person courses, which you can access through official sites, as well as plenty of self-learning resources that you can be given access to.
There are also departments within the public libraries, schools, and similar, in which they will offer you different options for learning the language.
And if you want an official certificate in the language, to prove that you have learned it, then you should go to the EOI (the Official Language of Schools), although there will be a fee for the classes and the examinations there.
So…what language do they speak in Barcelona? People there are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and Catalan.
Spanish is the official language of the country of Spain as a whole. Catalan is a language official to the region of Catalonia and is native to their particular culture and history.