If you are a native English speaker, learning the language of Catalan isn’t an easy task. Plentiful resources exist for Spanish speakers to educate themselves, but when it comes to learning directly from English, your options are scarce.
Some of these topics may prove to be extremely simple to you. If this is the case, I encourage you to skip ahead.
My goal is for this to serve as a resource for people who are learning Catalan. I have tried to do a real ‘deep dive’ in the language before, and since realised that instead, I want to learn Catalan fast. There’s so much that is taught in classes that is irrelevant to day to day life, and yet so much seems to get skimmed over.
By publishing this work before it is ‘complete’; while in the act of learning Catalan myself, I hope to capture the simple things that many polyglots gloss over, and document helpful resources that I find along the way.
As a result you may want to check back every so often to get the latest updates and resources.
As a mono-lingual Australian, I was faced with a few options when I moved to Andorra:
- learn Spanish,
- learn Catalan,
- learn Spanish, then Catalan, or
- be confused about everything and live in an English bubble.
Number 4 wasn’t one I was willing to entertain. Many have argued that “you only need Spanish”, and they are true. I could get away with it. But seeing as I am a guest in this country, I want to show respect to it’s people.
Outside of Andorra, a good deal of my life takes part in Catalonia too. I often find myself in the Spanish provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.
I want to reach B1 proficiency in Catalan.
Why Learn to Speak Catalan vs Spanish?
If you are reading this while planning to visit or start a life in Andorra, know that language here is a mixed bag. Due to the high percentage of immigrants living here, it’s not uncommon to find yourself speaking with someone who can only speak French, or Spanish, or even Russian.
Barcelona is the same. Lots of workers come to the city from elsewhere in Europe, and for practicality’s sake, they’ll usually pick up Spanish unless they want to work with the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya) or similar work in the provinces.
As a result, trying to learn Catalan in Barcelona can be tricky, as the locals will revert back to Spanish as soon as your show your inexperience.
But when you’re in a location where Catalan is proudly spoken, the true benefit comes out.
With the ability to speak some limited Catalan, my experience shows me that respect is reciprocal. Where I could easily be dismissed as yet another tourist, as soon as I start with some Catalan, I’m met with a smile.
What you’re about to read below is more for myself, because apparently I didn’t pay much attention in school.
We need to identify some basic fundamentals of all languages before we learn about how they work in Catalan.
They all get more complicated than this, but my goal is to keep this as simple as possible.
Words that describe nouns.
- Jase drives a cool car.
- My new bike is lighter than the one I had before.
- There were twenty one children in Emily’s class.
Words that (mostly) describe adjectives or verbs.
- Jase drove his car quickly.
- Christopher’s new bike is very light.
- Emily listened to her teacher attentively.
- His name was Jase Rodley.
- If he was the boss everything would be different.
- My sister helped me with the homework task.
- A child laughed loudly.
- Let’s meet at Fàbrica Moritz in Barcelona.
Words that describe what the subject is doing and feeling.
- Jase drove his car quickly.
- Christoper pedalled his new bike.
- Allison was proud of her daughter.
The changing of verbs to show the subject as a different person or number of people, tense, and more.
Examples of the verb to be:
- I am
- you are
- he/she/it is
- we (plural/a group which I am part of) are
- you (plural/a group which I am not part of, but you are) are
- they (plural/a group which neither of us are part of) are
Catalan Alphabet & Pronunciations
If you’re going to speak Catalan, you need to learn how to pronounce some letters. The good news here is, Catalan is very literal, there aren’t any silent letters so you can read the words out loud as they are written.
Depending on where you are from, you may be used to being ‘lazy’ with your pronunciations. As an Aussie, I grew up with a lot of slang and or slurred words. Travel has taught me to speak very ‘clean’ or ‘tight’ English, which enables English as second language speakers to understand me more easily.
These same clear pronunciations help a lot when it comes to learning correct pronunciation in Catalan.
However there are some different sounds than you may be used to. I will use some examples below to try and make them obvious. The bolded part of each word is the emphasis I’m trying to convey.
|Y||y||i grega||Nova York||New York|
As you can see, most of these sounds are very familiar.
Pronunciation of Letter Combinations
Where it gets a bit more complex is in letter combinations;
Sorry, I ran out of time. More details coming soon!
Coming very soon:
- Proximity (tall/high, in front of, behind, etc)
Catalan Noun Tricks
I’ll find out what the academic term is for these in the future, but for now there are some tricks you can use for nouns. The core part of the word is the same in both Catalan and English, but the ending of the word is different.
You do this by replacing:
- -ance with -ància
- importance becomes importància
- -ence with -ència
- difference becomes diferència
- -sion with -sió
- conclusion becomes conclusió
- -ty with -tat
- liberty becomes llibertat
- -tion with -ció
- coordination becomes coordinació
This won’t work in every single situation, so you won’t learn perfect Catalan by using these rules, but it can help to grow your vocabulary quickly if you just want to be able to speak the language day to day like I do.
Catalan Verb Conjugations
In Catalan verb conjugations primarily relate to 6 different subjects:
- jo (I)
- tu (you)
- ell/ella (he, her)
- nosaltres (we, a group which I am part of)
- vosaltres (you, a group which I am not part of)
- ells/elles (they, a group which neither of us are part of)
These three conjugations are used in 3 different forms:
- -er, -re
Here are some examples:
(to meet, know)
(to go out)
|jo treballo||jo conec||jo surto|
|tu treballes||tu coneixes||tu surts|
|ell/ella treballa||ell/ella coneix||ella/ella surt|
|nosaltres treballem||nosaltres coneixem||nosaltres sortim|
|vosaltres treballeu||vosaltres coneixeu||vosaltres sortiu|
|ells/elles treballen||ells/elles coneixen||ells/elles surten|
Catalan Words You Already Know
More info coming soon, but for now:
- -ant words
- -ent words
Catalan Learning Resources
- I find this useful for getting a better understanding of a word when other translation tools are ambiguous. Seeing it used in context makes the true meaning more obvious.
- Practical Guide to English Usage
- may sound odd, but this is written specifically for Catalan speakers, so it’s helpful to read this while taking an opposing perspective.
- Wiktionary Frequency Lists
- Wikitravel Phrase Book
Please Leave a Comment!
If you see something here that is wrong, please tell me! I’m learning and I want to know if my understanding of something is incorrect.
Also, if a certain strategy or resource has really helped you, please share. The longer the resource list we can create for English speakers who want to speak Catalan well, the faster we can all reach “fluency”!