Saturday, November 10, 2012

What the Catalan Language is NOT

Catalan flag, the Senyera
25 April by Marc Sardon on Flickr
Sometimes when I hear people talking about the beautiful language that they speak in three regions of Spain—Cataluña, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands—they often describe it in a way that, to me, is like nails on a chalkboard. Let me explain:

* Catalan isn’t Spanish.

* It isn’t French.

* It isn’t a fusion/mixture/combination of French and Spanish.

* It isn’t a dialect of Spanish.

* It does look a lot like French, and Spanish, too; but it’s neither one of them.

* It is Catalan.

The Catalan language arose from the Latin spoken by the common people in the northeast corner of the Iberian peninsula, centuries after the Roman Empire had dissolved into the Mediterranean Sea, in just the same way as French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese similarly developed. Although, like all Romance languages, it’s related to French and Spanish, it’s nevertheless individual and unique.

For example, here’s the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as spoken in Catalan:
Tots els éssers humans neixen lliures i iguals en dignitat i en drets. Són dotats de raó i de consciència, i han de comportar-se fraternalment els uns amb els altres.
And for comparison, the same text in French:
Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité.
And also in Spanish:
Todos los seres humanos nacen libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos y, dotados como están de razón y conciencia, deben comportarse fraternalmente los unos con los otros.
If you check out this great video below you can really start to get a feel for how un-Spanish and un-French the Catalan language really is:


Just as English isn’t a mix of Dutch or German or French, neither is Catalan a mix of French and Spanish. It is a Spanish language (una lengua española)—a language spoken in the Kingdom of Spain—but it’s no dialect, that’s for sure.
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