If you are going to live in Barcelona for any length of time, it will not be enough to speak only English. Learning Spanish is the most useful thing to do, as it is spoken throughout Spain and all Catalans understand it, but if you really want to be appreciated by the locals, learn Catalan.
Interestingly, being able to speak Catalan makes things much easier if you are applying for jobs, dealing with bureaucrats, or simply complaining about an error on your phone bill. Although it is extremely unlikely that you will be the recipient of past bad attitudes to Spanish-speakers, there is still a fierce devotion to Catalan in Catalunya. All efforts to speak Catalan rather than Spanish are very much appreciated, especially by the old-school locals.
Depending upon your experience with Latin-based languages, Catalan can be relatively straightforward. Catalan sounds almost like a direct fusion of Spanish and French, and depending upon your ear for languages, you will be able to pick up on basic greetings in a short period of time. For complex conversations and the ability to write and read in Catalan, you will need to allow a significant amount of time and patience. Keep in mind that many of the 1960’s generation are not able to write well in Catalan as it was prohibited during the Franco regime.
If you take classes (see our recommendations below), be aware that Spaniards are huge sticklers for grammar. You may spend far too much time on grammar that is basically non-essential. Don´t let yourself get too wrapped up in conjugating verbs correctly or you will become too intimidated to practice in the street. Outside of language classes, it is perfectly acceptable to use only the present tense, or the infinitive verb, until you have built up your vocabulary. You will be understood and almost all Catalans tend to be patient and appreciative with students.
Where to Find Lessons
Because Catalan is a minority language, the government runs free lessons for English-speakers. The best place to start is through the Generalitat. Refer to http://www.cpnl.cat/(choose the “traductor”option at the top in order to view in English or numerous other languages) and find the location closest to you by doing a search under classes. Terms usually follow school terms (beginning in October) and you will have one to three lessons each week.
- Escuela Parla
A language school based in Barcelona that offers group, individual and intensive courses in Catalan and Spanish. Fees are approximately €135 per month for non-intensive courses.
- C2 Barcelona
Intensive Catalan courses for €50 per week (all day classes, five days per week).
- London Language Centre
Interestingly, the website is entirely in Spanish. This is because their biggest clientele is Spaniards wanting to learn English, but they also offer classes in French, German, Spanish and Catalan.
Plenty of tutors offer their services here. It can be very helpful to supplement your free classes or to help your kids get their feet wet in a comfortable environment.