Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona's online course, Getting to Know Catalonia: An Introduction to the Catalan Language, Culture and Society. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds Today we have the opportunity to speak with Teresa Cabré, linguist and philologist of the Catalan language, She is known for her research on the evolution and integration of new terms that appear naturally in the Catalan language, especially as a result of popular speech and influences from other languages. This is carried out through platforms such as “TERMCAT” or the “Ibero-American Terminology Network”. Her role in 1995 as the coordinator of the first edition of the Catalan dictionary, which updated the original, established by Pompeu Fabra in 1932, was key. Dr. Cabré is therefore a key figure in the dynamization of the Catalan language and will give us a summary about its origin and evolution, and how it currently fits into Catalan society.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds What is Catalan? Catalan is a language spoken in much of the western Mediterranean. In addition to Catalonia, it is spoken in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, where it is called Valencian; in the Balearic Islands; in the town of Alguer; along a strip of Catalonia bordering with Aragón; and in the south of France. It is therefore rather a widespread language.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds It stems from Latin, just like other romance languages: French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Galician and Occitan. When the Roman Empire dismembered, the vulgar Latin that was spoken in the various territories of the Empire gave rise to different languages, the Romance languages. The Catalan language has had rather a troubled history. The earliest documents date from the 12 th century. Even so, Catalan was a splendorous language in the era of the Catalan-Aragonese Crown, because it was the language that was spoken in the Administration, and it gave rise to literary works of the first order, like, for example, Tirant lo Blanc, by Joanot Martorell. However in the 18 th century it suffered its first blow as a result of the Nueva Planta Decree.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 seconds The Spanish army invaded Catalonia, abolished all its institutions and abolished the use of Catalan in public life. It took two centuries until, at the end of the 19 th century, and the beginning of the 20 th century thanks to a favourable political climate, the Commonwealth of Catalonia, and thanks also to the fact that at that time Catalonia enjoyed some power from an economic point of view, the Renaissance movement, Catalan was recovered as a language of public and formal use, and this recovery resulted in the codification of modern Catalan, thanks to the figure of Pompeu Fabra who, within the Institute of Catalan Studies managed to unify the spelling, draw up a grammar and write a dictionary.

Skip to 3 minutes and 10 seconds But again, as we have said, the history of Catalan is quite turbulent. Then, in 1936, the military rebellion meant that, from 1939, all Catalan institutions were again abolished and the use of Catalan was prohibited once more. Again, more than forty years of ostracism of Catalan, until with the recovery of democracy in Spain, with the establishment of the 1978 Spanish Constitution and thanks to the new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, the use of Catalan began to recover, and until today, it is a living language, fully rooted in the Catalan society. How many people speak Catalan? Catalan is currently spoken by about 12 million people.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 seconds You must take into account that it has more speakers than any of the Scandinavian languages, any of the Baltic languages ​​or Maltese. Despite this, it is not formally or officially represented in the European Economic Community. Is Catalan used publicly? Indeed, today, Catalan is a language of modern expression, a living language that has practically all the resources. It is the language of primary and secondary education, and is also widely used in universities. But, apart from that, it has its own press, television and radio. It is present in the new technologies, in spellchecks, automatic translators. It is also present in mobile phones, interfaces in Catalan. It is present in social networks. So, the use of Catalan is not at all restricted.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds Catalan literature is rather strong: some 700 works of Catalan literature are produced each year. In addition, some one hundred translations of works are rendered from Catalan into other languages. Catalan literature has some internationally renowned writers such as Josep Pla or Mercè Rodoreda, who are no longer alive. Then there are contemporary writers like Sànchez Piñol, Jaume Cabré, Quim Monzó or Sergi Pàmies. So, the language is flourishing within today’s society. Is it a language used at the university? Yes, Catalan is also used at the university. Indeed, Catalan is the language of use in the statutes governing all Catalan universities. That is not to say that only Catalan is used at the university.

Skip to 5 minutes and 52 seconds Catalan is used alongside Spanish, followed by languages from other countries, basically English, the international vehicular language. The universities, in order to carry out their teaching in Catalan, and to promote the full use of Catalan within the university, organize courses to allow students from outside Catalonia to get to understand Catalan in just a few weeks, just by following these courses. Is only Catalan spoken in Catalonia? No, as we said, other languages are also spoken at the universities. But in the Catalan society, many other languages are present. First there is Spanish, the official language of the whole of the Spanish State. We can say that the inhabitants of Catalonia are bilingual.

Skip to 6 minutes and 42 seconds But, apart from that, thanks to immigration, because Catalonia is quite a prosperous region economically speaking, there are large numbers of immigrants. Catalonia has always been a welcoming land and now we have recorded more than 300 languages. In Catalonia, to alleviate all this, since the 1980s a model of linguistic immersion has been implemented. What is the purpose of this? It ensures that all children, after leaving primary school, are able to understand and speak Catalan and Spanish. In this way, the languages of the State and of the autonomous region are guaranteed. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that Catalan is national vehicular language.

Skip to 7 minutes and 26 seconds It is the most representative language of this culture and, as such, is the language that ensures social cohesion among all the people who live in this country.

Catalan language

Catalan is greatly present in Catalonia and other regions of the Mediterranean. Let’s find out how many people speak it and learn the brief history of the use and the prohibition of Catalan.

This video is in Catalan language, so remember to activate the subtitles in English, Spanish or Catalan.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Getting to Know Catalonia: An Introduction to the Catalan Language, Culture and Society

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona