two tongues catalan and spanish

Our in-house polyglot, on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

Posted on September 22, 2018 · Posted in Pura Buena Onda Blog

Our in-house polyglot on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

Hola a todos de nuevo 🙂

Last week I wrote about what fluency meant to me, and I mentioned that it is different for everyone and, in my case, for every language too.

In the following weeks, I’ll write about my experience with languages with more detail. I’ll start with Spanish and Catalan, since those two are both my mother tongues.

I guess that for some people, speaking two languages as mother tongues is quite a mystery. For bilingual speakers, though, it just comes naturally.

I learned them differently, though. At home and with my family, we only speak Catalan. At school 90% of the subjects are taught in Catalan, and 50% of them, at least, are taught in Catalan in High School (In Catalonia).

I learned Spanish at school and speaking with other kids and other people. Both languages are spoken everywhere in urban areas, so you end up learning both if your first language is Catalan. It’s not necessarily the same if your first language is Spanish. A lot of people have the habit of switching from Catalan to Spanish the moment someone says something in Spanish. It is a habit that has its roots in the years of Franco’s dictatorship, because Catalan was banned from public life and spaces from 1939 to 1975. Due to this, a lot of Spanish speakers feel comfortable only speaking Spanish in Catalonia, because most Catalan speakers will switch to Spanish with them. The younger generation has studied Catalan in school, but a good amount of them don’t speak it very well, or even at all, because of the reason I mentioned before (people switching from Catalan to Spanish). This happens too to a lesser extent with some Catalans who live in areas where Spanish is not largely spoken.

Are those speakers bilingual? It really depends. Some people struggle if they have to speak Catalan, and some do better; and vice versa. Usually, in the case of Spanish speakers with Spanish as their main language, the ones that speak Catalan frequently do better in Catalan. Again, this proves that speaking a language is crucial to really mastering it, and just learning it passively doesn’t assure fluency.

Stay tuned for future blog posts where I write about my experiences learning English, Italian, French, Korean & Japanese!

Hasta la próxima semana 🙂

Octavi