Barcelona is one of Spain’s most popular cities for visitors, and it is understandable that you might want to learn Spanish here. The combination of beautiful beaches and cultural heritage make it a perfect destination to combine language learning with a relaxing break.

However, before you make your decision to learn Spanish in Barcelona, there is one quite crucial fact that you should consider first: the people here speak Catalan. Barcelona is famously the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. While Spanish is an official language here, and the majority of the locals do speak it fluently, Catalan is widely spoken.

This shouldn’t be a problem for most learners: Spanish courses at schools in Barcelona are still taught completely in Spanish, by native speakers. However, depending on your language level, and perhaps also your language learning methods, there are some things to take into consideration when making your decision.

Things to consider

Catalan is the first language of most people and they are proud of their Catalan heritage. This means that signposts, restaurant menus, and even product labels will be written in Catalan. A Spanish translation is common, yet not guaranteed. While the two languages are very similar, this could hamper your language learning progress.

The same applies to the spoken language. If you turn on the TV in your hotel or apartment, you might find yourself watching TV in Catalan: the local channels are all broadcast in Catalan. The locals will also speak mostly in Catalan. While they will speak Spanish to you if you need them to, they will speak amongst themselves in Catalan.

Language immersion in Barcelona

This could be an issue if, like me, you want to immerse yourself in the language that you are learning. If you want to just sit in a café listening to conversations to get better acquainted with the language, this is not the city to do it. In some cases it can also create a social barrier between you and the locals, particularly if you are the only one in a group who doesn’t speak Catalan.
Advanced learners should have no problem differentiating between the two languages, but beginners might not notice. I have even heard stories of beginners picking up Catalan words and phrases, not realising that they were not actually speaking Spanish!

Don’t worry

The most important thing to do is not think too much about this. Countless students have booked Spanish courses in Barcelona and their feedback has always been positive! If anything, you might even learn some Catalan in addition to your Spanish! Almost like a 2-for-1 package ?

Spanish and Catalan do have a lot in common, so even if you do pick up the odd word of Catalan, it will have no detrimental effect on your Spanish learning experience.