There are two official languages in Catalunya: Spanish and Catalan. Catalan is not a dialect, but a language as close to French as it is to Spanish. Catalans are totally bilingual and they speak Spanish without any accent.
Outside the tourist areas, it didn't seem that Barcelonians spoke more than Spanish and Catalan. I found some minimal knowledge of English and German but found it easier to speak what Spanish I knew and fill in the gaps with Italian. When I spoke pure Italian, people seemed to get kind of the gist of what I was saying, but corrected me in Spanish each time, which helped me improve but also kept my ego in check.
In tourist areas or areas of interest, it seemed that facilities catered to speakers of French or Spanish, Catalan of course. English, Italian, or German? "If you must". Beyond that, very little effort was made to present things in minor, Central or East European languages. No effort at all was made for speakers of Asian languages that I could see.
Almost all the menus are in Catalunian so Spanish does not necessary help you in order to find out what there is in your tapas... Take some Catalunian dictionary with you before going to a restaurant if you want to know what you are eating :-)
It would be great if you learned some basic Spanish words and phrases because almost no one speaks English or any other language besides their native (and that's Catalan for people who live in Barcelona or in any other part of Cataluña, and Spanish). It made a world of difference to me that I was able to communicate in Spanish, because it can get a little frustrating that everytime you want something, you have to point with your finger on it.
Barcelona and most of Catalonia speaks Castilian (Spanish) and Catalan. Catalan is also spoken in parts of France and other parts of Europe. English is widely understood especially because of the in flux of British tourists.
In Barcelona (and an area comprising Catalonia, comunitat Valenciana, Illes Balears and some other parts) there's a bilingualism so Catalan and Spanish are spoken in the same way. Everybody understands Spanish although in some towns and villages Catalan is the only language spoken (not common).
Catalan is very similar to Spanish (70%) and it has some similarity to French and Italian.
There's a strange situation with Catalan too: as it is very similar to Spanish and many people from Catalonia traditionally came from southern regions of Spain (Andalucia, Extremadura) Catalan is not correctly written and spoken even in the media.
Catalan is spoken in a variety of dialects and places (it's spoken in l'Alguer, a Sardinian town of 20.000 inh.).
Although Spanish is spoken all over Spain, Catalan is the official language -next to Spanish- in Catalunya, where Barcelona is the capital. So you'll find everything in Catalan, such as the name of the streets, some menu in some restaurants, and even TV channels!
But don't worry. The people are well aware that this is a touristic place, and they will speak to you in Spanish if you need to. Well, that is if you speak Spanish....
Barcelona is an Autonomic Community, with a President, laws and police of its own. The culture is a it different than the rest of Spain and you will notice it directly with the language.
While everyone knows Spanish, the official language is Catalan, which is very similar to Spanish, but could be hard to understand if you don´t know the pronuntiation relues.
Most signs are written in catalan, as well as menus, and such.
You might find some people who refuse to speak Spanish and a few that can´t speak it. Don´t take it personally, and rtry someone else.
People in Barcelona can speak both Catalan and Spanish (and most of them can speak English too). If you aren't familiar with Catalan you would swear that the people are speaking French. They aren't. Catalin was forbidden during the years of Franco. In 1978, Catalan once again became an official language.
The main language is Catalan, which is similar to French and Castillian Spanish. If you know either French or Spanish, you'll probably be able to at least read Catalan. In Catalunya, the people have their own language and culture which can be quite different from the rest of Spain. My professor told us that since the Catalan people are very proud of their language and culture (they consider themselves to be Catalan first, Spanish second), they might give us a hard time if we speak Castillian Spanish, but we never had any problems.
Since this city is so cosmopolitan and international, I think more people here know English than in most other cities in Spain. The front desk man at the hotel spoke to us in English.
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