What language is spoken in Spain? This isn’t a trick question—or maybe it is, depending on how you look at it. Sure, Spanish (a.k.a. Castilian) is the most widely spoken language by the 47 million people who call Spain home. But a whole host of other languages is also native to the country — not to mention the hundreds of languages brought to the Iberian peninsula by immigrants from around the world.
In various regions of Spain, these languages are co-official with Spanish: Catalan, Galician, Valencian, Basque, and Aranese. Aragonese, Asturian, and Leonese are also spoken in different parts of the country. All of these except Basque, which is also known as Euskera, are Romance languages, descended from Latin, although some resemble Spanish much more closely than others.
After Spanish, Catalan is the most commonly spoken language in Spain. Most linguists agree that Valencian, spoken in the Valencian Community, is the same language as Catalan. Between the two, there are estimated to be between 8 and 10 million Catalan speakers, though it’s difficult to pin down that number because so many people report that they understand Catalan but only sort of speak it, or that they can read it but can’t write it, or so on. A 2019 Pew Research survey found that Catalan or Valencian is the primary language spoken at home in 12% of Spanish households.
If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, you probably noticed that the street signs there aren’t in Spanish – they’re in Catalan. Beyond Catalunya (spelled Catalonia in English) and València, Catalan is the official language of the nation of Andorra and is also spoken in parts of France and Italy. (The map below shows areas where Catalan/Valencian is spoken, as an official language or not, in various shades of green; the darkest green represents the core area of speakers.)
“Catalan Language in Europe” by Martí8888 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
In the past couple of years, we have been purchasing more books in Catalan here at the Duke University Libraries. Not only is Catalan fascinating to speakers and scholars of other Romance languages, and a source of some of Spain’s most interesting contemporary literature and media, the Catalonian independence movement has been a major force in Spanish politics in recent years, and a significant amount of the scholarship on this topic is written and published only in Catalan.
For all these reasons, we’ve decided it’s important to add more titles in Catalan to our collection. As the cataloger for Iberian languages, I have been working with Diego Godoy, our Librarian for Latin American, Iberian, and Latino studies and the staff of Monograph Acquisitions, to select, order, and catalog many unique titles in and about the Catalan language and culture. These photos show just a few of the books we have acquired recently.
If you’re interested in perusing our Catalan collections, they are concentrated in the PC3810-PC3976 call number range of our stacks. Additionally, you’ll find many of our books on Catalunya, its history, and its culture in the range DP302.C56-69.
If you want to learn some Catalan, Duolingo offers a free online course, but it’s taught from Spanish, not from English. The Catalan government’s Secretaria de Política Lingüística also offers online courses at parla.cat.
Finally, thanks to the website of the TV channel TV3, you can watch Catalan-language TV online at https://www.ccma.cat/tv3/. There are also a handful of series and films in Catalan available on Netflix – my favorite is the dark comedy Welcome to the Family (Benvinguts a la Família), which offers subtitles in English, Spanish, and Catalan.
Gràcies per llegir aquest article (Thanks for reading this article), and, as we often say at the end of a conversation in Catalan, que vagi bé (literally, may you go well)!
(Please note that some of the materials above might not be ready for patrons yet. Never fear – while they’re in process, check out all the books in Catalan already available!)