Barcelona is lovely and I would highly recommend going for many reasons, but for practicing spanish, I would say no. I had quite a bit of difficulty using the spanish I’d been taught in high school and college.
I did not hear a ton of Catalan in Barcelona. There were a few signs in it, but there were more signs in Spanish. My guess is that the Catalan issue is probably a bigger deal outside of the city.
With the exception of one woman (who owned a botique and lived in Barcelona her whole life) everyone I met spoke Spanish. I think most people learn both (especially if they work in the touristy areas like Las Ramblas) since Catalan is only spoken in that particular region it is necessary to know more than just Catalan. I liken it to living in Amsterdam and only speaking dutch, it’s not common. I didn’t have trouble in stores (except for the one botique, like I said, and even there I was able to understand fragments of what she said and she was able to understand fragments of what I said) or in meeting locals.
I guess other people didn’t find this to be true? I wonder how long they were in Barcelona (maybe longer than I so they had more exposure?) and what areas they frequented. I spoke Spanish everywhere and Catalan is very similar. If you study in Spain you will see the commonalities and start to pick up Catalan just by reading menus and signs. I know I picked up a lot of both Spanish and Catalan while I was there.
I’m catalan, I live in Barcelona and I can assure you that you will learn spanish living here. As an example, I speak in catalan with my father and spanish with my mother. At college, some teachers speak in spanish and other in catalan.
Everybody in Catalonia can speak spanish, not everyone speak catalan.
I think knowing two languages is better than one ;-)
I’m pretty sure Barcelona has two official languages or at least it should. They use both. Besides, Barcelona is worth it, such a great city and you can travel outside the city if you want to practice Spanish.
Between The Earth And The Sky
It’s a fun city
But if your primary reason is to learn Spanish, I really would recommend choosing somewhere else.
It’s true everyone can speak Spanish, but it doesn’t mean they do. Most language I hear on the street is Catalan.
In addition, I’ve had some hostility for using Spanish instead of Catalan, from people in shops, waiters etc, and I would personally choose somewhere where you’re not gonna have that hostility for using the language you want to be learning.
And a lot of street signs, stuff in shops etc. are in Catalan, which takes away the passive input.
Nobody, I repeat, nobody, will be “hostile” to you for speaking spanish. What might happen is that someone speaks to you in catalan (if that’s his/her mother tongue) and if you tell him/her politely that you’re foreigner and that you only speak spanish EVERYONE will change the language so you can understand.
Between The Earth And The Sky
p.s. Sincere apologies if my comment disturbs or offends some people (see Marc’s reply, where he kindly represents the views of every single Catalan person).
I’m only reporting my own personal experience, which was true for me and true for a number of my friends, (including those who had lived there from two to 20+ years), with the aim of adding to the kaleidoscope of different experiences so people can make their own choices.
If I said that Barcelona is a good place to live to learn or practise Spanish, I would not be telling the truth as I experienced it.
If I said that it is a fun and dynamic place to live where, with exta effort, it is possible to learn Spanish, yes absolutely.
My most sincere apologies to princessjane…my answer was too rude, now that I read it over. Sorry.
It’s just that…you know…people in Catalonia are being attacked since the beginning of times for speaking our own language, and sometimes we get to touchy on this issue.
I hope you understand. I’m very sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, sorry.
You will find two languages there. If you feel comfortable with that then no problem.
I have been living there for many years and the people I met from other countries who learn Spanish and Catalan at the same time are (usually) either from Canada or from Finland. Don’t ask me why.
If you are open and willing to learn both languages I recommend you to go there. Otherwise, you might enjoy somewhere else better. :)
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