Use of local languages
Barcelona is a cosmopolitan and polyglot city where over 300 languages are spoken in its streets, resulting from the vibrant international community established here.
There are two official languages in the city: Catalan and Spanish.
The overwhelming majority of Barcelona’s residents consider themselves fully bilingual. That means they can switch from Catalan to Spanish with ease. What is more, there are more and more people who understand and speak English and other international languages.
Catalan is a highly appreciated and indispensable part of Catalan culture, and certainly plays a very central role in the city’s daily life.
The importance of Catalan in all areas of Catalan life is beyond dispute. A large number of Catalan families speak exclusively Catalan at home and regard it as their language of identity. Catalan is the language of instruction in Catalonia's schools, where Spanish and another foreign language, usually English, are taught. Even if classes are given in Spanish and Catalan in universities, it is Catalan which is adapted as the institutional language and used in administrative affairs. Catalan is also the vehicular language of the local authority’s bodies and institutions. You are therefore advised, for all the above reasons, to learn Catalan if you are thinking of living in Barcelona.
Spanish, for its part, is one of the most commonly spoken mother-tongue languages in the world and extensively used in Barcelona. Note that a considerable part of Barcelona’s population is made up of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from other parts of Spain who speak Spanish as their mother tongue and main language. If you speak it you will be able to communicate with locals as soon as you arrive.
In other words, knowing the local languages will make it easier for you to integrate into Catalan society. It can also open doors for you in your professional, business, social and personal life, enrich your personal experience in Barcelona and enable you to enjoy a wide and diverse range of leisure and culture reflecting the city’s 2000 years of history.
Learning Catalan and Spanish
If you're keen to learn Catalan and Spanish, note that they are both Romance languages and therefore related languages. If you already know some French, Italian or any other Latin-based language, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to learning Barcelona's official languages.
Barcelona offers you a huge number of centres for learning its languages, including schools and private centres, as well as universities.
If you are someone who opts for the official system, Official Language Schools (EOIs, which stands for Escola Oficial d’Idiomes) offer you courses in modern languages, including the local languages of Catalan and Spanish.
Barcelona has six such EOIs, but the Drassanes and the Vall d’Hebron ones offer the largest number of courses.
Another option is to learn autonomously using the language's self-learning resources offered by the public libraries of Barcelona.
In the specific case of Catalan, there are several organisations that offer free beginner's courses, in the classroom and online. You can join free Catalan courses in Barcelona through the Consortium for Linguistic Normalisation, CPNL (only in catalan). Another resource is the Parla.cat portal, which offers classroom, online and mixed courses.
The program Voluntariat per la Llengua (VxL) is a program aimed to practice Catalan through conversation. It is based on the creation of linguistic pairs formed by a volunteer, who speaks fluent Catalan, and an apprentice, who has basic knowledge and wants to acquire fluency.
To obtain further information on Catalan and Catalan-language policies, visit the following websites: