Difference between Catalan and Spanish

By: | Updated: Jan-16, 2018

Are you planning a trip to Barcelona and you think the Spanish you learned in high school may be enough to get you by and make you pass as a worldly traveler? Think again! Although people in Barcelona can speak Spanish (and English, FYI), they actually speak Catalan. The two languages are similar but there are differences you need to be aware of.

Summary Table

CatalanSpanish

It is a language spoken only in Catalonia

It is a language spoken in Spain and in Latin America

In the Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance family

In the Ibero-Romance branch of the Romance family
It is similar to FrenchIt is similar to Portuguese
Not a phonetic languageA phonetic language
Not all vowels and consonants at the end of words must be pronouncedVowels and consonants at the end of words must be pronounced
Has both acute and grave accents on vowelsHas only acute accents on vowels
Has stress-marked vowelsDoes not have stress-marked vowels
There is a “z” soundThere is no “z” sound
There is no “ñ” sound and letterHas the “ñ” sound and letter

Definitions

Barcelona
Beautiful Barcelona

Catalan is a Romance language spoken in Catalonia, a part of Spain that used to be the Principality of Catalonia. As far as formation is concerned, Catalan is in the Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance language family; therefore, the language is closer to French. Catalan is not a phonetic language, meaning that you do not write it like you pronounce it.

Madrid
Madrid

Spanish is a Romance language originating in the region of Spain. Following the colonization era, Spanish has become the second most spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese. The language is derived from Latin and it is the Ibero-Romance branch of the Romance language. Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning that it is written like it is pronounced.

Catalan vs Spanish

Although they are both Romance languages and they are both spoken on the territory of Spain, there is more than one difference between Catalan and Spanish.

Countries where they are spoken

Catalan is a language spoken only in Catalonia, a region in Spain, whereas Spanish is the official language in Spain and it is the second most spoken language in the world. Also, Catalan is on the Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance family while Spanish is on the Ibero-Romance branch. This makes Catalan more like French, while Spanish is closer to Portuguese.

Phonetics

As far as phonetics goes, Catalan is not a phonetic language, but Spanish is. All final vowels and consonants are pronounced in Spanish, while in Catalan you can skip your final “-o” or “-n” letters.

When it comes to vowels, Spanish only has the accute accent, whereas Catalan also has the grave accent. On the other hand, Catalan has stress-marked vowels, which Spanish does not.

With consonants, Spanish has a simple rule of placing a vowel between consonants. Catalan, however, uses consonant groups such as “ts,” “gts,” “ls,” “ks.”

Oddities

Other differences consist in the fact that Catalan has the periphrastic preterite past tense, which no other Romance language has. Another oddity consists in the dot places between two “l” letters.

There is no “z” sound in Spanish, but there is in Catalan. On the other hand, Spanish has the “ñ” sound and letter, whereas Catalan does not have it.

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