National Library of Catalonia, Barcelona
L’Hemisphèric theatre, Valencia
Catalan is an official language of Spain, spoken by 9 million native speakers on the east coast of Spain (Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante), the Balearic Islands, in Andorra and some parts of south-western France.
Naturally, Catalan does share similarities with Spanish, but the linguistic and notably the cultural differences are often greatly underestimated.
Having been to the Balearic Islands, Alicante and Valencia, I had been exposed to the language in its native surroundings even before studying it officially. When I came to learning Catalan, its vast cultural differences from those of the rest of Spain quickly came to light, such as the Castallers – human towers of up to ten people high organised at festivals – and Caganers – squatting figures placed on a Nativity scene behind a bush doing their business.
What’s this got to do with translation?
I’ve since spent time in Barcelona, where the language is spoken as a first language by the majority. I have met Catalan people who are keen to tell you about their region’s proud history, notably its struggle against resistance and oppression from radical advocates of the Spanish language.
Today, the Catalan language is more than flourishing and no longer dismissed as a dialect or regional language, but a powerful, integral part of European linguistic diversity.
Not many people outside of Spain and France know much about Catalan, which makes native English-speaking translators from Catalan a rare find, particularly those with formal study and in-country experience of the language.