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Catalan vs. Spanish: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 4, 2023
Catalan is a Romance language spoken primarily in Catalonia, Spain, while Spanish is the official language of Spain and many Latin American countries.

Key Differences

Catalan is primarily spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia in Spain, as well as in Andorra. Spanish, in contrast, is the official language of Spain and is spoken widely in Latin America.
While both languages share a common origin in Latin and have many similarities, they are distinct languages with their own vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.
Some consider Catalan to be closer to Occitan, a language spoken in southern France, than to Spanish. Spanish, on the other hand, shares closer linguistic ties with other Iberian Romance languages like Portuguese.
The literary and cultural traditions in Catalan are rich and distinct from those in Spanish. Spain's literary scene celebrates both Catalan and Spanish literature.
Both languages coexist in regions like Catalonia, where the population is bilingual. However, Spanish is more universally recognized due to its extensive global reach.

Comparison Chart

Geographical Spread

Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Valencia, Andorra
Spain, Latin America

Linguistic Ties

Closer to Occitan
Closer to Portuguese

Official Status

Co-official in Catalonia, Valencia, and Balearics
Official language of Spain and numerous other nations


Uses a few special characters, like the punt volat
Standard Latin alphabet with specific diacritics


Some words resemble French more than Spanish
Shares many cognates with Portuguese

Catalan and Spanish Definitions


Spoken alongside Spanish in certain Spanish regions.
In Valencia, you'll hear both Catalan and Spanish on the streets.


One of the world's major languages.
With millions of speakers, Spanish is a global language.


A Romance language of Catalonia.
She spoke to him in fluent Catalan.


Official language of Spain.
He learned Spanish before visiting Madrid.


Official language of Andorra.
Andorra's national broadcasts are in Catalan.


Widely spoken in Latin America.
Many countries in South America have Spanish as their primary language.


Part of the Ibero-Romance language family.
While Catalan has its unique characteristics, it shares roots with other Ibero-Romance languages.


Of or relating to Spain or its people or culture.


Of or relating to Catalonia or its people, language, or culture.


Of or relating to the Spanish language.


A native or inhabitant of Catalonia.


The Romance language of the largest part of Spain and most of Central and South America.


A person of Catalan ancestry.


(used with a pl. verb) The people of Spain.


The Romance language spoken especially in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Andorra, and the Roussillon region of France.


(printing) To subject to spanishing, a printing process in which an ink is deposited on the bottoms and sides of depressions formed in a plastic material


Of or pertaining to Catalonia.


Of or pertaining to Spain or the Spaniards.


A native or inhabitant of Catalonia


The language of Spain.


The Romance language spoken in Catalonia in eastern Spain (related to Spanish and Occitan)


The Romance language spoken in most of Spain and the countries colonized by Spain


Relating to or denoting or characteristic of Catalonia or its inhabitants;
Catalan independence movement


The people of Spain


Relating to or characteristic of the Catalan language;
Catalan poetry


Of or relating to or characteristic of Spain or the people of Spain;
Spanish music


Has distinct phonetic and grammatical rules.
Catalan pronunciation can be challenging for Spanish speakers.


Has varied dialects across regions and countries.
Argentinian Spanish sounds distinct from the Spanish spoken in Spain.


Originated on the Iberian Peninsula.
Over time, Spanish evolved from several languages spoken in ancient Iberia.


Are Catalan and Spanish mutually intelligible?

While they share similarities, they are distinct languages and aren't completely mutually intelligible.

Is Catalan a dialect of Spanish?

No, Catalan is a separate language with its distinct grammar and vocabulary.

Why do some regions in Spain speak Catalan?

Catalonia, where Catalan is spoken, has a rich history and cultural identity distinct from the rest of Spain.

Where is Spanish the official language?

Spanish is the official language of Spain and numerous countries in Latin America.

Is Spanish spoken in Catalonia?

Yes, Spanish and Catalan coexist in Catalonia, and most residents are bilingual.

How did Catalan develop as a language?

Catalan evolved from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Pyrenees region during the Middle Ages.

What is Catalan?

Catalan is a Romance language primarily spoken in Catalonia, Spain, and Andorra.

Are there media outlets that broadcast in Catalan?

Yes, there are TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers that operate in Catalan.

Are there different dialects within Catalan?

Yes, Catalan has several dialects, depending on the region.

Which language has more speakers, Catalan or Spanish?

Spanish has significantly more speakers worldwide compared to Catalan.

Is the grammar different between Catalan and Spanish?

Yes, while they share some similarities, each language has its own grammatical rules.

Is Spanish influenced by Arabic?

Yes, due to historical Moorish presence in Spain, Spanish has many Arabic loanwords.

Why is Spanish spoken in many countries outside Spain?

Spanish colonization spread the language to various parts of the Americas.

Can Spanish speakers understand Catalan?

To some extent. While there are similarities, there are also many differences that might pose challenges.

Are there popular festivals celebrated in Catalan?

Yes, Catalonia has unique festivals, like "La Diada" and "Castells," celebrated primarily in Catalan.

Do the Catalan and Spanish alphabets differ?

Both use the Latin alphabet, but Catalan includes certain unique characters.

How are Spanish and Catalan taught in Catalonia's schools?

Both languages are part of the curriculum, with an emphasis on bilingualism.

Is Catalan influenced by French?

Catalan shares certain linguistic features with Occitan, which is spoken in southern France.

Is it essential to know Catalan when visiting Catalonia?

While it's appreciated, Spanish and often English are also widely understood.

Which language is older, Catalan or Spanish?

Both languages evolved from Vulgar Latin, so they developed roughly concurrently, but their individual evolutions vary.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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