Spanish vs Catalan: Crucial Similarities And Differences (2023)

Catalan and Spanish.

They’re both spoken in Spain, and they both have linguistic similarities.

But they’re are also significant differences.

If you’re curious to discover more about how Catalan and Spanish compare, read on.

Here are the similarities and differences between Catalan and Spanish.

How similar is Catalan to Spanish and other languages?

The level of lexical similarity between Catalan and Spanish is quite high as you might expect.

They have a similarity level of ~85%.

But Catalan also shares some similarities with other languages.

Since it is spoken in a Spanish region that borders the south of France, it also shares many lexical similarities with French.

It is also ~87% lexically similar to Italian.

Where is Catalan spoken and how many Catalan speakers are there?

Spanish vs Catalan: Crucial Similarities And Differences (1)

You can expect to hear Catalan spoken in Catalonia, which is a region in the northeast of Spain.

There are other locations in which Catalan is spoken as well, including Andorra, parts of France and parts of Italy.

There are roughly 9 million Catalan speakers.

Are Spanish and Catalan mutually intelligible?

Since Catalan and Spanish (Castilian) are both spoken in Spain, some might think that Catalan and Spanish are mutually intelligible.

But a Spanish speaker who hasn’t learned Catalan, who is visiting Barcelona and would like to have a conversation with a native Catalan speaker from Catalonia would still find it a challenge to understand Catalan.

The written versions of Catalan sentences are possibly slightly intelligible to native Spanish speakers and readers since some words are lexically similar.

On the other hand, since Spanish is taught in Catalonia it’s expected that some Catalan speakers can understand Spanish without much difficulty, but this depends on the education they have received.

How are the origins of Catalan and Spanish similar and different?

Though these two languages are separate - i.e. Catalan isn’t a dialect and is a language in its own right - Catalan and Spanish have the same roots and origins.

(Video) Do People in Barcelona Speak More Spanish or Catalan? | Easy Spanish 256

Catalan and Spanish are both Romance languages, meaning they originate from the Romans, but they are different Romance subdivisions.

While Catalan is classified as a Gallo-Romance language, Spanish is called an Iberian-Romance language.

Grammatical and pronunciation differences between Catalan and Spanish

There are several key grammatical differences between Catalan and Spanish.

Here are the key ones you should keep in mind:

  • The use of the simple past tense in Catalan differs when compared with Spanish
  • In Catalan, definite articles are used before a name or noun and can be contracted. In Spanish, this doesn’t happen
  • Catalan uses voiced fricatives whereas Spanish uses these much less

The simple past tense: Catalan vs Spanish

Whereas the Spanish language uses the simple past tense, Catalan uses a periphrastic tense for the simple past.

Consider the difference between these examples:

  • English: Yesterday I cooked an apple and blackberry cake.
  • Spanish: Ayer cociné un pastel de manzana y moras.
  • Catalan: Ahir vaig cuinar un pastís de pomes i mores.

You’ll notice that the Spanish simple past tense is indicated by the verb cociné, where the accented é shows this sentence is written from the perspective of the first person. The Catalan version of the sentence is different.

It uses a compound, periphrastic verb construction using the verb anar.

In the Catalan example above, this verb is vaig, which is followed by a verb in its infinitive form _cuinar _(to cook).

Contractions and definite articles: How do these differ between Catalan and Spanish?

In Catalan, there are many more contractions between definite articles and nouns.

If a noun begins with a tonic vowel (one that is stressed), an apostrophe can be used to omit the vowel of the masculine article el or the feminine article la.

However, keep in mind that you have a noun that starts with an unstressed vowel, you cannot use an apostrophe in Catalan.

In nouns that start with a growing diphthong or diftong creixent, never use an apostrophe to contract these definite articles and nouns.

This is simply because the letter that starts the noun doesn’t sound like a vowel.

For instance, the word el iogurt (the yogurt) starts with a growing diphthong (which is the initial -io), so the rule is that you cannot use an apostrophe to contract the definite article and the noun here.

All of the above is completely different in Spanish. Why? Well, there simply aren’t any apostrophes in Spanish. This is mainly because we use the word de to indicate belonging.

For example, if you wanted to say “I’m going to Laura’s house”, you wouldn’t use an apostrophe.

Instead, you’d say:

(Video) Spanish Differences Between Spain, Mexico and Argentina!!

Voy a la casa de Laura.

When you add that there are far fewer contractions in the Spanish language when compared to Catalan, you can see that Spanish has little need for apostrophes.

Voiced fricatives: Catalan vs Spanish

When compared to Spanish, Catalan has voiced fricatives and the pronunciation of the letters z and s are different.

But they can sound the same. The letter “s” in Catalan can be pronounced with a voiced fricative. This means it can sound like an “English” z when combined with a noun that begins with a vowel.

One example of this is the phrase més amics, in which the letter s in més would be pronounced as a voiced fricative.

In Spanish, the only voiced fricative you’ll find is in the words yo and mayo, where the letters “y and o” combined should be pronounced in a similar way to the letter j or “zjo”.

But there are some more similarities and differences to be aware of, so let’s take a look at some of the others.

Article/noun gender agreement Catalan vs. Spanish

In both Catalan and Spanish, nouns and articles must agree with each other in terms of their gender.

In Catalan, you can tell that a noun is masculine if it ends in a stressed vowel. And, you guessed it, if the noun ends in an unstressed vowel, it is a feminine noun.

Using the word ‘en’ in Catalan compared with Spanish

The Catalan language has a handy word, which is en. It means ‘of that mentioned before’ and is ideal for succinctly expressing an idea about a noun that has been talked about previously. Here’s an example of the word ‘en’ being used in a sentence:

Tinc quatre pomes. Me’n menjaré dos i te’n donaré dos.

I have four apples. I’ll eat two of them and give you one.

Did you notice how en was used? It comes before the verb and, in these examples, means the speaker is referring back to the manzanas they’ve mentioned in the first sentence. The English equivalent in this sentence is “of them”.

The word en, in Catalan, can be used in a similar way to its Spanish equivalent (en) and can mean “on” or “in”.

The letter ñ in Spanish vs the Catalan equivalent

If you’re fluent in Spanish or learning the language, you’ll be aware of the trademark letter ñ.

It’s frequently used in Spanish and is pronounced eh-nyeh. If you’re wondering if you’ll find the letter ñ in Catalan, you won’t.

Catalan uses the letters “ny” to phonetically represent the letter ñ. Instead of the word español, in Catalan, you can expect the word espanyol to be used.

(Video) The 5 Languages of Spain

Or, instead of the word señal (meaning signal), you can expect the word senyal.

Phonetically different: Spanish vs. Catalan

If you’re learning Spanish you have the benefit of knowing that once you’ve learned how each letter of the alphabet is pronounced, it’s a phonetic language.

You’ll find it easy to pronounce new words and phrases as you can sound out each letter.

Catalan, on the other hand, is not an entirely phonetic language.

In terms of its phonology, there are eight different vowel sounds (compared to the five, mostly-closed vowel sounds of the Spanish language - A, E, I, O and U).

The vowel sounds you should bear in mind for the Catalan language are:

  • The stressed À
  • The unstressed À
  • The open È
  • The closed É
  • The closed Í
  • The opened Ò
  • The closed Ó
  • The closed Ú

Verb conjugations: Similarities between Spanish and Catalan

If you’re interested in the differences between Catalan and Spanish verbs, here’s a bit of positive news: conjugating verbs in Catalan and Spanish follows a similar process.

To prove it, here’s how to conjugate the verb cantar in the present simple tense in both Catalan and Spanish:

I singJo cantoYo canto
You singTu cantesTu cantas
He/She/It singsEl/Ella cantaEl/Ella canta
We singNosaltres cantemNosotros cantamos
You all singVosaltres canteuVosotros cantaís
They singElls cantenEllos/Ellas cantan

Cardinal and ordinal numbers: Catalan vs Spanish

Finally, although they bear some resemblance to some French numbers, cardinal and ordinal numbers in Catalan are also very similar to those of the Spanish language.

Here’s more on this.

Catalan cardinal numbers and Spanish cardinal numbers

In the table below you’ll find the cardinal numbers in Catalan and the cardinal numbers in Spanish.

Can you spot the similarities and differences between the two?

Cardinal Numbers in CatalanCardinal Numbers in Spanish

The main differences here are between the Catalan and Spanish numbers from ten until twenty.

Whereas the Catalan language uses the letter z to spell out its cardinal numbers, Spanish favours the letter c.

After quince and up to veinte in Spanish, you’ll also notice how each cardinal number is made from the number diez and the appropriate ones unit.

So, dieciocho combines diez and the number ocho.

(Video) Learn Catalan language: difference and pronounciation of "L·L" and "LL"

Catalan does something similar, but the spelled-out version of each number is shorter.

For instance, the spelled-out number diviut combines the numbers deu and vuit.

Catalan ordinal numbers and Spanish ordinal numbers

Again, there are many similarities between Catalan ordinal numbers and Spanish ordinal numbers. The table below compares the Catalan and Spanish ordinal numbers:

Ordinal Numbers in CatalanOrdinal Numbers in Spanish

The main difference here is that Catalan numbers feature a grave accent mark above the final letter after the ordinal number cinquè.

They’re also shorter which, in this sense, might mean they’re slightly easier to pronounce.

The Spanish ordinal numbers all end in an o and after décimo (up to “twentieth”) they combine the Spanish ordinal number décimo or “tenth” with the appropriate ordinal number as a sort of suffix.

Learn Catalan and Spanish with confidence using this advice

A dedicated learner can pick up Spanish and Catalan without too much difficulty.

It takes practice, but there are enough similarities to make your language learning journey exciting, and enough differences to ensure you push yourself when learning each language.

These are the pieces of advice you will need to develop your understanding of each language:

  • Study a Spanish and Catalan course (see Glossika or Cudoo) to learn the basics of each language.
  • Spend some time in the country or region of your target language. This will help you immerse and surround yourself with native speakers of each language.
  • Learn about each culture. The political evolution of the Catalan language is rich. Though it was prohibited in the era of Franco, Catalonia has regained its cultural and linguistic autonomy. Learning about the history of the region in which the language is spoken can help you understand how to use it and how it has evolved.
  • Use lists to help you build a strong vocabulary for each language.
  • Be aware of the false cognates of Catalan and Spanish.
  • Listen to audio recordings, films, and podcasts and watch YouTube channels to develop your listening skills.

Keep at it and you’ll soon develop your comprehension level and level of expression without much difficulty.

Have you got any other similarities and differences between Catalan and Spanish that you’d like to add?

Share your contribution below in the comments section!

Spanish vs Catalan: Crucial Similarities And Differences (2) Grab the link to this article

Copy Link

NextPresent Progressive Tense In Spanish: Beginner's Guide
(Video) Why Are Spanish and German So Different?


Spanish vs Catalan: Crucial Similarities And Differences? ›

Catalan and Spanish are both Romance languages, meaning they originate from the Romans, but they are different Romance subdivisions. While Catalan is classified as a Gallo-Romance language, Spanish is called an Iberian-Romance language.

What are the main differences between Catalan and Spanish? ›

Catalan uses consonant clusters whereas Spanish requires a vowel sound between consonant sounds (most of the time). Catalan uses voiced and unvoiced vowels. Catalan shares the Portuguese L, Spanish does not.

What is the similarity between Catalan and Spanish? ›

Catalan and Spanish vocabulary are somewhat similar. Many words in Catalan are familiar to native Spanish-speakers. Both are languages derived from Latin, so knowing one or the other gives you an advantage when it comes to learning vocabulary.

Can a Spaniard understand Catalan? ›

The answer is no. Catalan is mutually unintelligible with Spanish. For instance, I know many Spanish speakers, who have lived in Catalonia for a long time, such as ten years, who can neither speak nor understand Catalan.

What is the mutual intelligibility between Spanish and Catalan? ›

Spanish and Catalan have a lexical similarity of 85%. Spanish is also partially mutually intelligible with Italian, Sardinian and French, with respective lexical similarities of 82%, 76% and 75%.

What is a major cultural difference between Catalonia and the rest of Spain? ›

The main difference between the two cities is in their styles and architecture: traditional Style (Barcelona) and modern style (Madrid). Catalan refers to the Romance languages, as well as Spanish, but is not a dialect of Spanish. Catalan is more like French and Italian than Spanish and Portuguese.

How hard is Catalan if you know Spanish? ›

The answer is that Catalan can be very easy to learn if you already speak some French or Spanish. But if you're looking for a quick language win, the similarities Catalan has with other languages can make it hard to not mix up when you speak.

What language is Catalan most similar to? ›

Catalan is most closely related to the Occitan language of southern France and to Spanish, but it is clearly distinct from both.

How different are Catalan and Spanish reddit? ›

It is geographically and linguistically in-between Spanish and French, though much closer to Occitan than French. Some have described Catalan as a "mix" of Spanish and French words, but in reality simply shares a number of features with Spanish, French, Occitan, and even Italian.

Should I learn Catalan or Spanish for Barcelona? ›

But which language will be most welcomed in Barcelona? A: It depends what your objective is. If you want to connect with Catalan culture and have a more personal insight into the indigenous culture, then it's best to learn Catalan. If you wish to be more widely understood, then learning Spanish would be the option.

Do people in Barcelona actually speak Catalan? ›

Most of the people who live in Barcelona are bilingual and speak Catalan and Spanish, which is also an official language.

Is Catalan closer to Latin than Spanish? ›

Catalan has its own grammar, dictionary, and is mostly mutually unintelligible to the uninformed Spanish speaker — especially those who learned Spanish as a second language (like us). Catalan is a Latin language, similar to Spanish, French, and Italian. In terms of pronunciation, it's most similar to Spanish.

Is Catalan more similar to Spanish or Portuguese? ›

Because both languages are derived from Latin, you'll find the greatest similarities in vocabulary, while many speakers say in terms of grammar and pronunciation, Catalan more closely resembles Portuguese or Italian. Catalan has a broader array of sounds than Spanish and a tone or pitch that does not exist in English.

Do most Spaniards speak Catalan? ›

A little over 15 percent of the Spanish population speak some form of Catalan, while only 8.5 percent call it their mother tongue. The Romance language Catalan has its name from the region of Catalonia in the northeast of Spain and adjoining parts of France.

What country speaks Catalan the most? ›

Catalan speaking countries

The Catalan language (native name: català, valencià) has its roots in the Indo-European language family. With 8.06 million native speakers, Catalan has the highest prevalence in Spain. As a percentage of the total population, the largest share of around 32 percent is in Andorra.

Is Catalan a variant of Spanish? ›

Catalan was considered a dialect of Occitan until the end of the 19th century and still today remains its closest relative. Catalan shares many traits with the other neighboring Romance languages (Occitan, French, Italian, Sardinian as well as Spanish and Portuguese among others).

What is unique about Catalan culture? ›

Catalan culture has developed its own unique and universal identity over the centuries. The innovative flair, creativity, capacity to absorb different influences, co-existence and tolerance values has shaped a culture that is both national and cosmopolitan.

What do people from Catalonia call themselves? ›

The current official category of "Catalans" is that of the citizens of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain and the inhabitants of the Roussillon historical region in southern France, today the Pyrénées Orientales department, also called Northern Catalonia and Pays Catalan in French.

What is the difference between Spanish and Catalan food? ›

It has its own identity. Catalans mix meat and seafood in the same recipe—it's called mar i muntanya, which means "sea and mountain" in Catalan—in a way that seems rather odd in the rest of Spain. And Catalans have a huge tradition of pork sausages—fuets, butifarras—but they don't use paprika in them, like in chorizo.

Is there a lisp in Catalan? ›

As has been pointed out by many people, the lisp story is a myth. It is not lisp. It is just the way the z, and the c when followed by an i or an e, are pronounced in the Spanish of Northern and Central Spain. As to the pronunciation of Barcelona, in Catalan it is pronounced almost the same as in English.

What is the hardest Spanish dialect to understand? ›

Chilean Spanish accent

Spanish from Chile is famously different from the standard version. There are a lot of Chilean words that you won't find in RAE canon. For this reason, some people call “Chileno” the hardest version of Spanish to learn. It's also known to have unclear pronunciations.

How long would it take a Spanish speaker to learn Catalan? ›

It depends, usually betwen 6-10 months. However, you can also ask for lessons in spanish, as it is your right to apply for it and they must accept it (and it doesn't matter if the school is private or public). Since she already speaks Spanish, it is probably a good idea to go for Catalan in school anyway.

Is Catalan a mix of Spanish and Italian? ›

No. Catalan is a language in its own right. It does not derive from Spanish, or even from French, even though many people say that Catalan sounds like a mixture of both. Catalan evolved directly from common Latin.

Is Catalan closer to Italian or Spanish? ›

Is Catalan closer to Spanish or Italian? In lexical similarity, closer to Italian. No, it isn't French. Of all of the languages listed, Catalan and Italian have the highest similarity.

What is the closest language to Spanish? ›

Based on lexical similarity, you will find that Portuguese is the closest to Spanish. Just remember that you will need to rethink the way the words are pronounced. You will also want to know which words are different between the languages. Following Portuguese is Italian as the second closest language to Spanish.

Is Catalan a beautiful language? ›

Catalan is an elegant and beautiful language and has long and significant literary and cultural history. It is a member of the family of Romance languages, and derives from Latin, like French, Spanish, Italian, Galician, Portuguese, Rumanian and Occitane.

Is Catalan gendered? ›

Catalan nouns are inflected for gender (masculine or feminine), and number (singular or plural). There is no case inflection. Articles and adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.

Is Spanish closer to Catalan or Portuguese? ›

Philologists unanimously affirm that Portuguese is the language closest to Spanish. Catalan is part of a group of languages ​​related to the Occitan-Provençal that was spoken in different dialects from Bordeaux to Marseilles in the South of present-day France.

How do you greet in Catalan? ›

Hola/Bon Dia (Hello)

The official greeting in Catalan is 'Bon dia'. If you can't quite remember the phrase, a simple 'Hola' is the best way to greet people in Barcelona.

What percent of Barcelona speak Catalan? ›

Social use. According to a 2008 survey, in everyday use, 45.9% of the population usually spoke Spanish, while 35.6% usually employed Catalan, and 12% of the population used either language habitually.

Is it better to learn Spanish or Catalan? ›

But which language will be most welcomed in Barcelona? A: It depends what your objective is. If you want to connect with Catalan culture and have a more personal insight into the indigenous culture, then it's best to learn Catalan. If you wish to be more widely understood, then learning Spanish would be the option.

What language is Catalan closest to? ›

Catalan is most closely related to the Occitan language of southern France and to Spanish, but it is clearly distinct from both.

Is Catalan closer to Spanish or Portuguese? ›

Differences between Catalan and Spanish

Many listeners find that Catalan sounds closer to Portuguese or Italian than it does to Spanish, while others liken it to a blend of French and Spanish. Not all Spanish speakers can understand Catalan – and vice versa.

Is Catalan more similar to Spanish or French? ›

Catalan is sometimes more similar to French than Spanish

However, despite mostly being spoken in present-day Spain, Catalan actually shares many more similarities with the language of neighbouring France.

What percentage of Catalans speak Spanish? ›

Catalan. According to the official government of Catalonia, Catalan is the second most spoken language of the region, after Spanish (over 35% of Catalans use exclusively Catalan as their first language, while 11% of Catalans use equally both Catalan and Spanish).

Is Catalan a gendered language? ›

Gender and grammar1

Catalan has two grammatical genders: feminine and masculine.

Is Catalan more similar to Spanish or Italian? ›

According to Ethnologue, the lexical similarity between Catalan and other Romance languages is: 87% with Italian; 85% with Portuguese and Spanish; 76% with Ladin and Romansh; 75% with Sardinian; and 73% with Romanian.

What is the closest language Spanish? ›

Portuguese. In the north-western part of Spain, Galicia is the mother-land of the Portuguese mother tongue. It's widely considered the closest language to Spanish – the lexical similarity is approximated at 89%.


1. Can a Spanish Speaker Understand Italian, Portuguese and Catalan? Ultimate Challenge
(Diego Alonso Virgues)
2. Different Accents from Spain. How to Speak like a Spaniard
(Diego Alonso Virgues)
3. How Similar are Spanish and Portuguese?!
4. 7 DIFFERENCES Between Spain and Portugal
(The GEOfocus Channel)
5. OCCITAN vs. CATALAN - Can Catalan and Occitan speakers understand each other? (subtitles available)
(Couch Polyglot)
6. The History of Catalonia
(History With Hilbert)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated: 10/15/2023

Views: 6582

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.