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What is the difference between Catalan and Spanish?

difference between catalan and spanish

The main differences between Spanish and Catalan are lexical. Still, these two languages have lots in common, so much so that they are often mixed up or considered dialects of each other. So, what is there to know about the historical, geographical, and cultural differences between these two languages?

Spanish or Castilian Spanish

The language commonly known as Spanish is actually Castilian Spanish, i.e., the language spoken in the Kingdom of Castile. During major geographical discoveries and colonial conquests, Castilian spread to South America, becoming one of the world's most widely spoken languages.

Types of Spanish spoken around the globe

As is nearly always the case with "import languages", the Spanish spoken in the colonies began a slow but relentless evolution of its own, gradually distancing itself from Castilian.

This evolution did not lead to the creation of "American Spanish” but did give rise to several varieties of Spanish rooted in overlaps between the Iberian language and the complex system of languages spoken by indigenous peoples.

People in the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa, speak a variant of Spanish independent of Castilian and has minor differences throughout the various islands of the archipelago.

The co-official languages of Spain

Contrary to popular belief, Spanish Castilian is not the only language spoken in Spain. Spain has three co-official languages: Galician, Basque, and Catalan, which is divided into two different linguistic identities.


Catalan is the language spoken in Catalonia, a geographical area overlooking the western Mediterranean Sea and located on the border with France. The main cities in Catalonia and the linguistic capitals of Catalan are Barcelona, Tarragona, and Llorét de Mar.

However, people also speak Catalan in the Balearic Islands and a linguistic community in Alghero, Sardinia.

Because of its similarity to Castilian, people often think Catalan is a dialect of Spanish. However, it is actually a standalone language that bears many similarities to Occitan, the medieval language spoken in Southern France.

Like any language, Catalan also has several dialects that can be divided into an "eastern block" and a "western block".

Differences between Catalan and Spanish

As mentioned, the differences between Spanish and Catalan are lexical. Catalan looks more like Italian and French than Spanish.

Just like Italian, Catalan combines personal pronouns, as in the case of “gliene”, “gliele”. Catalan also uses en and hi particles (translatable with "ne" and "ci" in Italian), which do not exist in Spanish.

We entrust our translation services from Italian to Spanish to professional translators who know the differences between the various languages spoken in Spain and can produce professional translations, including to and from Catalan.

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December 12, 2022

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