If I go to Barcelona, Should I Learn Catalan or Spanish?

Barcelona architecture learn a new language

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona, you may be wondering which language to learn for better communication during your stay. If you do a little research, you will find a wide range of language schools with wonderful Catalan and Spanish lessons in Barcelona.



Learning the language of a foreign city is an excellent way of understanding its culture and citizens’ lifestyle. Thus, deciding whether studying Spanish or Catalan seems to be a hard decision since both languages are widely spoken in the multicultural city of Barcelona

While it may seem like the obvious choice would be to learn Catalan, the local language of Catalonia, there are several compelling reasons why choosing a Spanish course in Barcelona, rather than Catalan, can be more beneficial for travelers.

1. Wider usage and global reach

One of the biggest advantages of learning Spanish is its global recognition and usage. While Catalan only has 4 million native speakers and a total of about 10 million speakers. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, with over 460 million native speakers across 31 countries. 

Moreover, Spanish is also an official language in numerous international organizations. Consequently, knowing Spanish will not only enhance your travel experience in Barcelona but will also be useful in other parts of the world, making it a practical investment of your time and effort.

2. Universality within Barcelona

While Catalan is the co-official language of Catalonia, Spanish is the most widely understood and spoken language in Barcelona. According to a study conducted by the Generalitat de Catalunya, 72% of Barcelona residents speak Spanish, while only 35% speak Catalan. 

By learning Spanish, you will be able to communicate with a larger number of locals, including those who may not be fluent in Catalan. Spanish will prove valuable not just within the tourist areas, but also in more diverse neighborhoods and markets where locals are less accustomed to speaking Catalan.

3. Compatibility with other Romance languages

Spanish shares many similarities with other Romance languages like Italian, French and Portuguese, among other languages.

This means that learning Spanish will give you a head start if you ever decide to explore these other languages. Understanding the basic principles and vocabulary of Spanish will facilitate communication and comprehension, allowing you to bridge gaps in conversations across different cities and countries.

In other words, learning Spanish and improving your communication skills will further enrich your travel experience even outside Barcelona. Moreover, it will pave the way to study other Romance languages in the future.

students learning in a classroom wooden floors

4. Availability of learning resources

Learning Spanish is far more accessible than learning Catalan, whether you choose to study it by yourself or in a language course. 

There are numerous textbooks, online courses, mobile apps, and language schools dedicated to teaching Spanish due to its worldwide popularity. These resources offer a wide range of learning materials, including grammar guides, vocabulary lists, audio recordings, and interactive exercises. 

On the other hand, finding comprehensive resources to learn Catalan might be more challenging, limiting your possibility of finding high quality resources and your ability to progress quickly in the language.

5. Cultural integration and social experiences

Learning Spanish can also help you embed yourself within the local community more seamlessly, allowing for a deeper understanding of the culture and traditions. 

As you may know, Barcelona, being a cosmopolitan city, attracts people from different parts of Spain and Latin America. By speaking Spanish, you can engage in conversations with locals hailing from various backgrounds, creating meaningful connections and fostering cultural exchange. 

Spanish will also allow you to fully enjoy Barcelona’s cultural offerings, such as literature, music, and cinema, which are predominantly in Spanish.

6. Emergency situations and practicality

Knowing Spanish can be crucial in emergency situations, where clear and immediate communication is essential. Barcelona is a bustling city, and it’s important to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. 

Being able to communicate with emergency services, medical professionals, or even seeking directions becomes much easier and less stressful when you understand and speak Spanish. In such situations, Catalan might not be the ideal language for quick and effective communication.

Even though there are a wide range of reasons to study Spanish instead of Catalan, learning both languages will give you a full view and understanding of Barcelona. Thus, if you like learning languages and you have enough time, it could be a great idea to study Spanish and also Catalan. 

However, if you are not willing to spend so much time learning languages, the most wise and sensible option is to study the famous Spanish language. This knowledge will be enough to communicate with other tourists and locals and you will have the necessary resources to travel around Barcelona and learn from its wonderful culture. 

In conclusion, while learning Catalan certainly holds its merits, choosing to learn Spanish when traveling to Barcelona can provide a wider range of benefits and enriching experiences.

It will grant you access to a language that is spoken by millions of people worldwide, increase your interaction opportunities with locals in Barcelona and in other Spanish cities, and enhance your cultural integration. 

With its global recognition and wider availability of learning resources, Spanish proves to be a more practical choice for travelers looking to make the most of their time in Barcelona.

In order to make the most of this learning experience, we suggest you research different language schools and find the course which adapts better to your needs and possibilities. 

Having the adequate resources, well-qualified teachers and a friendly learning environment will help you to improve your communication skills and reach a higher level of Spanish. 

Learning a language and being immersed in a foreign culture is a once in a lifetime experience that will enrich you personally and professionally. Enjoy the city, taste the amazing food, share a caña with locals and enhance your skills. 

Are you ready for this learning and discovering journey? ¡En hora buena!

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