Lesson 2 // The Catalan “Countries”
We’re going to take a quick detour from the Catalan language and talk about where Catalan is spoken. The map above shows us where in Europe Catalan is predominantly spoken.
As you can see, it is spoken primarily in Spain along the eastern Mediterranean coast, and in the Balearic Islands (not to mention Andorra!), but it is also spoken in France and Italy! The areas where Catalan is spoken are known as the “Països Catalans”, or “Catalan Countries" in Catalan. This does not necessarily mean that all Catalan speakers see their regions as countries, it just means that they have a very clear and strong identity.
Now, the dialects and accents of Catalan are a bit harder to point out, but I think the map up top explains it pretty well. There are three major dialects of Catalan: occidental, which is mainly spoken in the Valencian Community and in most of Tarragona, Lleida and Andorra, central, which is spoken in parts of Tarragona, Barcelona and most of Girona, and oriental, which is spoken in southeastern France and the Balearic Islands. L’Alguer has its own unique pronunciation, as it is a small town isolated from the rest of the Catalan-speaking world.
There are also a few sub-dialects, as the Catalan spoken in Lleida is not the same as the Catalan spoken in Valencia, though the accents are somewhat similar, same with the Catalan spoken in Catalunya Nord (which is the name for the region of southeastern France that speaks Catalan) and the Balearic Islands. Each island also has its own unique dialect, such as eivissenc, which is spoken in Ibiza.
Standard Catalan comes from Central Catalan, and is the dialect and accent spoken in Barcelona. This is the Catalan that will predominantly be taught and used here.
This is a map showing the major political boundaries of Catalan. The region called the Franja de Ponent is an area of the region of Aragón that also has a strong history with Catalan.
The truth is, while most of the people in these areas will speak a language other than Catalan, they love it when a foreigner speaks to them in their language. It’s not something they expect, so it’s always nice to put a smile on their faces. :)