To celebrate the European Day of Languages on 26th September I am starting a series of posts featuring different languages. To begin with I have chosen a European language and I plan to follow this up with other languages that have some meaning for me. They will be mostly but certainly not exclusively European languages and I intend to include lesser known or even “dead” languages. My first featured language is Catalan, a language I started learning in 2007 after receiving a number of bilingual Spanish (Castilian) / Catalan texts for translation. Once or twice I have encountered sentences in Catalan with no Spanish translation.
Catalan is the language of Catalonia. About 95% of the six million Catalan people speak Catalan. It is also spoken in the Balearic Islands, Valencia and is the official language of Andorra. There is also a Catalan speaking community in Rousillon in France which as this province was once part of the Principality of Catalonia. A Catalan dialect is also spoken in the town of Alghero in Sardinia which has a long historical connection with Spain.
Catalan is an Ibero-Romance language with its origins in Latin and as such it is similar to Castilian, Galician, Portuguese, French and Provencal, which all came into being in the 8th and 9th centuries AD.
The packaging on virtually all the food products sold in Spain is written in two, three, four or more languages, including Castilian, Basque and Catalan among others. A daily breakfast time activity for me is reading each of the different languages. Although there are similarities between Castilian and Catalan one quick way of telling them apart is by looking at the spelling differences. In Catalan ‘i’ can be used as a single word and the letter ‘t’is a common word ending. Although it uses the ‘ll’ like Castilian it can also pronounce two ‘ll’s separately by placing a dot between them ‘ŀl’. Catalan uses ‘ny’ instead of the ‘ñ ‘of Castilian. Similarities with French and Spanish are due to their shared Latin roots but make no mistake it is as different from them as they are from each other.
Catalan has a long literary history stretching back over 800 years and includes such important writers as Ramon Llull (1232-1316). For more information see http://www.lletra.net/
If you fancy having a go at learning some Catalan click here