Spanish VS Catalan Language: 6 Difference Between Spanish and Catalan

The differences between Spanish vs Catalan is like comparing two types of delicious fruit juices. Both are tasty, both are good for you and they have unique flavors that make each of them special.

You might run into one in an area on the Costa Brava, and you can experience the usage of the other one throughout Spain or in Latin America. Easy Spanish made a great video on the differences between Spanish vs Catalan, make sure to check it out here:

Both of these languages come from the same language family but they have their own sounds, words, and rules. Let’s find out how they differ in this blog post!

1. Spanish vs Catalan: where do they come from?

Imagine a big family tree!

At the top of this tree is Latin. And Latin is like the great-grandparent of many languages. Spanish and Catalan are like two branches growing from this same tree.

They are both part of the Romance language family but while Spanish originates from a region called Castille in Spain, Catalan language began its journey in the Easter parts of Spain: Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

Spanish was brought into the Iberian peninsula by Roman soldiers who first spoke Latin a long time ago. And over hundreds of years, people mixed Latin with local words and sounds that created Spanish as a separate languages.

Catalan also comes from Latin but it grew and changed in its own special way in the mentioned regions.

So, you can see: Spanish vs Catalan are like cousins a big family. They have the same common ancestor, but they also have differences. And we will explore all of them in this blog post.

Let’s go!

2. Difference between Catalan and Spanish in pronunciation

One of the major differences between Spanish vs Catalan is how vowels and consonants are pronounced. Catalan phonology is a bit different and richer than Spanish.

spanish vs catalan flags on flagpole

Spanish only has 5 vowel sounds (/a, e, i, o, u/) while Catalan has 8 vowel sounds (the 5 Spanish already has + /ɛ, ə, ɔ, u/

Other than this, there are differences between some consonants and consonant sounds. LL in Spanish‘ is completely different in Spanish and in Catalan and the same is true for the “v“: the Spanish “v” is more similar to “b“, while the Catalan is closer to “v.

And one more thing about x in Spanish: “exacto” is pronounced /egˈsakto/ in Spanish, and “exacte” in Catalan is pronounced /əɡˈzaktə/.

But enough of these boring explanations. Let’s see all of this with examples:

SpanishCatalanEnglish
a – “casa” /ˈkasa/a – “casa” /ˈkazə/house
e – “te” /te/e – “té” /te/tea
o – “sol” /sol/o – “sol” /sɔɫ/sun
ll – “calle” /ˈkaʎe/ll – “cavall” /kəˈvaʎ/horse
v – “vino” /ˈbino/v – “vi” /vi/wine
x – “exacto” /egˈsakto/x – “exacte” /əɡˈzaktə/exact

3. Learn Catalan grammar rules

There are essential grammar differences between Spanish vs Catalan. The easiest way to remember these differences is to actually see them in action.

Articles and Gender

There are small differences in the use cases of articles and gender. In plural, Catalan uses els and les compared to los and las in Spanish.

SpanishCatalan
el (masculine)el (masculine)
la (feminine)la (feminine)
los (plural masculine)els (plural masculine)
las (plural feminine)les (plural feminine)

Example: “the boy” is “el niño” (Spanish) and “el noi” (Catalan); “the boys” is “los niños” (Spanish) and “els nois” (Catalan).

Possessive Adjectives

Based on articles and genders, possessive adjectives in Spanish and in Catalan are also different.

SpanishCatalan
mi (my)el meu (my – masculine)
tu (your)la meva (my – feminine)
su (his/her)els meus (my – plural masculine)
su (their)les meves (my – plural feminine)

Example: “my car” is “mi coche” (Spanish) and “el meu cotxe” (Catalan); “my cars” is “mis coches” (Spanish) and “els meus cotxes” (Catalan).

Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs are truly a different breed in Catalan compared to Spanish language. Let’s check this, too:

SpanishCatalan
me (lavo)em (rento)
te (lavas)et (rentes)
se (lava)es (renta)

Example: “I wash myself” is “Me lavo” (Spanish) and “Em rento” (Catalan).

Prepositions

There are also some differences in preposition usage in Spanish and in Catalan. Most of these use cases are easy to understand for language speakers, but it’s still good to list it:

SpanishCatalanExample (Spanish)Example (Catalan)
a (to)aVoy a la escuelaVaig a l’escola
en (in/at/on)a, enEstoy en la casaEstic a la casa
con (with)ambHablo con ellaParlo amb ella
de (from)de, des deVengo de MadridVinc de Madrid
por (through)perCaminamos por el parqueCaminem pel parc

After going through these examples, it will be pretty clear when to use which.

4. Spanish and Catalan vocabulary differences

The biggest difference between these two languages that are originated from the same language family is most certainly in terms of vocabulary.

In some cases, they have totally different words for the same things or events, and this is the part that’s the hardest to overcome. We on Effortless Conversations made it easier for you by listing the most common examples in a comparison table.

SpanishCatalanEnglish
casacasahouse
cochecotxecar
niñonenboy
niñanenagirl
amigoamicfriend
perrogosdog
gatogatcat
escuelaescolaschool
librollibrebook
comidamenjarfood
aguaaiguawater
trabajofeinajob/work
dinerodinersmoney
mesataulatable
sillacadirachair
ventanafinestrawindow
puertaportadoor
hombrehomeman
mujerdonawoman
tiendabotigastore/shop

5. The use and status of Catalan language vs Castilian Spanish

Just like we mentioned it before, the Castilian Spanish version of the language is used everywhere in Spain, even in regions where Catalan is also an official language. It’s the official language of Spain and people use it for everyday communication, in schools, government offices, media and business.

Catalan is primarily used in Catalonia, some part of Valencia and on the Balearic Islands. Catalan – beside Spanish – is the co-official language in these regions. This means that most people use it along with Spanish in schools, local governments, TV shows, newspapers, and radio stations.

People in Catalonia are more open to speak Catalan at home, with friends and in public spaces.

6. Catalan vs Spanish cultural significance

Castilian Spanish carries the legacy of the standard Spanish language in Spain and in other Spanish-speaking countries. The traditions connected to it are known worldwide and not just in Europe.

spanish vs catalan in barcelona at nigh

Catalan has deeply tied roots in Catalonia and people are proud to speak this language in the region. Catalan also has its representation in literature, art and local traditions. The Catalan culture is also reflected through local festivals in Barcelona, the Costa Brava and the people living there have a strong sense of community.

Can Spanish speakers understand Catalan?

Spanish and Catalan speakers can sometimes understand each other, but it depends on how much they’ve been exposed to the other language.

Generally, we can say that people in regions like Catalonia (where both languages are used and official) often learn and use both intermittently. For Catalans, it’s natural to use Spanish and Catalan but in other parts of Spain where only Spanish is spoken, some people might find Catalan harder to understand. Still, the two languages are similar, so it’s hard to imagine that two people speaking these languages wouldn’t find at least some common ground.

Schools and media also play a big role; the educational system in Catalonia is bilingual. Catalan is the primary language in official circumstances (in cultural institutions and offices) but Spanish is also a mandatory subject and thus, students become proficient in both languages.

The balance between Spanish vs Catalan in the curriculum can be different depending on the school and the specific educational policies in place at any given time.

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