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Joan Baez singing in the Catalan language.

This is a traditional Catalan folk song known as Rossinyol que vas a França (”You, nightingale flying to France”) or El rossinyol (”The nightingale”).

The singer, a girl who has been forced to marry without love, asks a nightingale going to France to greet her mother.

This song is still commonly sung nowadays, but most people don’t know its origin. Scholars believe it has its origins in the year 1659, when the Treaty of the Pyrinees signed by France and Spain gave the Rosselló region (Northern Catalonia) to France. The nightingale is free to cross the border and its singing brings together the families that were separated.

Joan Baez has sang other songs in Catalan, including Lluís Llach’s Viatge a Itaca and No Serem Moguts. She also sang a translated version of El Cant dels Ocells (The Carol of the Birds).

Differences between the three main Catalan dialects

Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, in the region of Valencia, in the Balearic Islands and in a part of Aragó (all of them in Spain). It’s also the official language of Andorra and it’s spoken in the south of France and in an Italian city called L’Alguer. The language can be divided in two blocks: el bloc occidental y el bloc oriental (western and eastern block).

As you can see, part of Catalonia, the south of France, the Balearic Islands and L’Alguer are in the eastern side, while Andorra, part of Aragó and the region of València are in the western side (NOTE: the areas that are not painted in the region of València are the areas where Spanish is the ‘traditional’ language).

The main dialects are: el català oriental, el valencià/nord-occidental i el mallorquí (this is how we call the dialect from the islands. However, the subdialects are eivissenc and menorquí. Some people include l’alguerés here as well, while others don’t). Inside these dialects there are subdialects.

NOTE: To talk about the Balearic Islands and L’Alguer, I’ll use the term “the islands”.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES?

ARTICLES

The articles change a bit. 

Everyone uses “el, la, els, les”, except in the islands, where they use l’article salat (the “salty” article). So, a Catalan speaker would say “Les illes” to talk about the Balearic Islands, but someone from these islands or from L’Alguer would say “Ses Illes”.

Examples: 

He comprat sa casa que volia (I’ve bought the house I wanted) (islands)

He comprat la casa que volia (I’ve bought the house I wanted)

Since there’s a context it’s easier to understand, but if someone from Majorca says “sa casa” (the house), people from other places would understand “his/her house”, since “sa” is like “la seua”, a possessive pronoun.

ARTICLE SALAT (the):

                    sg.                               pl.

m.                es                                es

f.                  sa                               ses


es café (the coffee)

sa llengua (the language)

es cafés (the coffees)

ses llengües (the languages)

I’m going to be honest: if you can understand someone from the islands you deserve a C2 certificate.

1 PERSON SINGULAR IN THE PRESENT TENSE

Depending on the dialect, a person will say:

penso       pense       pens (I think)

penso: in Catalonia, in the map, the areas called “Central” and “Septentrional”

pense: in Valencian and the Nord-occidental dialect

pens: in the islands. This is the oldest form, it’s been found in the oldest Catalan texts.

Example:

Penso que tens raó (I think you’re right)

Pense que tens raó (I think you’re right)

Pens que tens raó (I think you’re right)

Obviously this doesn’t happen if the verb ends in a consonant (example, jo crec (i believe/think))

POSSESSIVES 

Possessives change a bit as well, but just one letter!

In the western block people say “la meua casa” “la teua casa” “la seua casa” “les meues cases” “les teues cases” “les seues cases”. However, in the eastern side people will say “la meva casa” “la teva casa” “la seva casa” “les meves cases” “les teves cases” “les seves cases”.

Example:

La meua amiga és molt alta. (My friend is very tall)

La meva amiga és molt alta.

VOCABULARY

Like Spanish or English or any other language, there are some vocabulary differences. There many words, but I’ve just listed some:

(male form. in order: western block, central Catalan and the islands)

xiquet    nen     nin/fiet/boix  (child)

xic        noi         al·lot                  (boy)

eixida         sortida                       (exit)

creïlla           patata                     (potatoe)

tomaca        tomata      tomàtiga (tomatoe)

espill            mirall                      (mirror)

You can use whatever word you want, people will understand you. This is like saying “lift” to an American, they know it means “elevator”.

This video (in Catalan) explains the vocabulary differences, including L’Alguer.


1 PERSON IN THE PRESENT OF SUBJUNCTIVE

The ending of the verbs in the first person of the present tense in subjunctive changes as well.

Western block: -e

Eastern block: -i 

Example: potser compri un llibre (I might buy a book) (eastern)

               potser compre un llibre (I might buy a book) (western)

There are some more differences in the subjunctive. Example:

Que parle qui ho haja fet (Whoever has done it must speak up) (western)

Que parli qui ho hagi fet (Whoever has done it must speak up) (eastern)

PRONUNCIATION

The pronunciation changes a bit as well, but this is easier to see if you listen, rather than reading. Some examples:

el doctor (the doctor)

Some from the eastern side would say “doctah”, like the British, while people from the western side will say each letter.

Also, in the eastern side the “e” sounds like a “a” (more or less) when it is not the stressed letter.

Example: 

els poetes (the poets). 

In an eastern Catalan, you’d hear “poetas”, although the “a” sound will be quite weak. 

Same happens with the “o”, if it isn’t a strong one it sounds like an “u”. Example: portar. Wirtten “portar” but pronounced “purtar” in the eastern side.

The video form the 80s every student has watched in high school: “Compraré peres” (in Catalan)

Of course, there are many more differences, if you want to add any (or correct anything) feel free to do so!

SPAIN, Madrid : Princess of Asturias Leonor kisses Spain’s King Juan Carlos (L) next to Spain’s King Felipe VI andSpain’s Queen Letizia ® on the balcony of the Palacio de Oriente or Royal Palace in Madrid on June 19, 2014 following a swearing in ceremony of Spain’s new King before both houses of parliament. Spain’s King Felipe VI begins a new reign today already facing a threat to the unity of his kingdom as the northeastern region of Catalonia fights to hold an independence referendum on November 9. AFP PHOTO / GERARD JULIEN

SPAIN, Barcelona : Catalan hold Catalan independentist flags (Estelada) during celebrations of Catalonia National Day (Diada) in Barcelona on September 11, 2014. Red and yellow flags filled the streets of Barcelona today as Catalan nationalists fired up by Scotland’s independence referendum rallied to demand a vote on breaking away from Spain. Demonstrators planned to mass in the late afternoon along two central Barcelona avenues in the shape of a giant letter “V” for vote. AFP PHOTO/ LLUIS GENE

SPAIN, Sant Salvador de Guardiola : An area transformed into a cemetery of 200 crosses made with charred trees set up by firefighters after a wildfire is seen in Sant Salvador de Guardiola, near Igualada on October 6, 2015. A wildfire raging on July 27, 2015 in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia threatened some 1.000 hectares of forest and farm land and forced the evacuation of some 800 people.    AFP PHOTO/ JOSEP LAGO                        

Growing up, as I did and as we all did…I hope. We had these international Santas on display in our house because myself and my family love Christmas traditions of other countries. I learned about one which I think we should all be doing in this country. In the Spanish region of Catalonia, they have something called a ‘Caga tió’ or ‘Poop Log of Christmas’. So there is this log that they bring out on December 8th, it has a face and you open him up and you feed him. You put food in him throughout the Christmas season. Then on Christmas day, you get a stick and you beat Caga tió and literally ask him to poop out presents. There is even a song that goes along with it. I am currently adopting this tradition and trying to build my own Caga tió, but the tools required are quite hefty. Emotionally and physically. I’m working on it. You guys got any normal or exciting Christmas traditions? 

One of my minors was political science and because I went to school in Spain, most of that minor was classes on the politics of the EU and Spain. I have to say that I thought the EU would fall apart from smaller regions, like Catalonia, the Basque Country, Scotland, etc., gaining independence first, from both their countries’ governments and the EU as a consequence. But the more countries that leave the EU, the more likely it is that these regions will gain independence, I think, because one of the biggest hindrances to them leaving is that they wouldn’t be allowed to join the EU immediately upon becoming their own country, losing the movement/trade benefits.

I really hope that this is just the beginning of the trend towards smaller governments, geographically and otherwise.