In the latest of our series of blogs on regional Spanish dialects, we take a look at the origins and present-day use of Catalan.
Like other Spanish dialects, Catalan evolved from Vulgar Latin in the 9th century. It enjoyed its golden age during the Middle Ages as the language of the then-powerful Crown of Aragon; this, coupled with its dominance as the language of literature meant that Catalan was widely spoken all around the Mediterranean.
Since that time, it has endured fluctuating fortunes; it began to go into decline following the union of Aragon with other Spanish territories in the 15th century and suffered further after Northern Catalonia was ceded to France in 1659. It was banned by both France and Spain in the early 18th century but a century later underwent a literary revival, which eventually led to its regaining official status. This was relatively short-lived as, like several other dialects, it was once again banned under the Franco regime, but it survived and is now co-official in Catalonia and the Balearics. It’s also an official language of the Valencian Community, where it is called Valencian rather than Catalan, and is spoken, though not officially recognised, in other autonomous communities. Today Catalan is one of the more widely-spoken dialects, with about 9% of the population claiming it as their mother tongue.
Although our Spanish lessons in London are based on the standardised form of the language, there is no need to be apprehensive about conversing with people from areas where regional dialects are common; they are in the main mutually intelligible, but differing in certain pronunciation and vocabulary just as different regions of the UK do.