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11 Catalan Phrases that you Must Learn Before Coming to Barcelona

Are you planning on traveling to Barcelona? Do you want to be able to impress your friends and maybe even catch the attention of a local Catalan?

Although Barcelona is a popular destination location for many, few outside of Spain know the language of the local people: Catalan. Since Barcelona is located in Spain, it is easy to mistake Spanish for the language of the locals. Most of the people in Barcelona will entertain the idea of speaking Spanish with you and will gladly practice their English with you, but in the comfort of true friends, local residents prefer to speak their mother-tongue with one another. So I’ve outlined 11 phrases in Catalan for you to practice with your roommates to pleasantly surprise the locals of Barcelona.

Getting the Conversation Started:

1) Hola! Em dic Evan. Com ets dius?

Hi! My name is Evan. What’s your name?

It can often be scary to talk to a stranger in your native language, but even more discouraging to talk to someone in another language. So don’t worry about advanced Catalan phrases just yet. Start by saying hello or introducing yourself, and little by little you’ll feel more comfortable speaking the language.

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2) Perdoni, quina hora és? / Gràcies.

Excuse me, what time is it? / Thank you.

If you’re too nervous to start a conversation with a Catalan person by saying hello, you can always practice the language by asking something indirect. This way you’ll get the experience of speaking, and it might reduce your initial nerves or aversions to trying. Just be sure to thank them for telling you the time.

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3) Com estàs? (Molt) bé.

How are you? (Very) good.

“How are you?” is a typical phrases that many of us use when we are starting to learn a language. This is often used as another greeting or conversation starter; therefore you’ll notice that responses for the question are good (and very good). You can start to expand on further feelings later, but for now, let’s stick with the basics. Like the two examples before, this phrases will help you get the conversation started between you and your Catalan language partner.

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Asking for help:

1) Perdoni, podria ajudar-me?

Excuse me, could you help me?

It is never a bad thing to ask for help, or to practice asking for help. This phrase is can be a lifesaver whether you are lost, you don’t know where the bathroom is located, or you’re in another kind of bind. Even if you’re a beginner when it comes to Catalan, you’d only need to practice this phrase and then clarify your ability level (which you will learn how to do below).

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2) On puc trobar [l´hotel/aquest apartament/el bany/etc.]

Where can I find [the hotel/this apartment/the bathroom/etc.]

This phrase is another great way to build off the first phrase. Once you ask a local if they can help you, then you can lead-in to how they can help you (with any problems about directions). Are you looking for the hotel, your new apartment, or ever a bathroom within a restaurant? Simply recite “on puc trobar,” fill in the gap with what you are looking for, and show them an address or a location. This phrase is going to be a huge time-saver for you, but don’t forget to say “gràcies” to the person helping you.

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3) Què em recomana [fer/menjar/beure/etc.]?

What do you recommend [to do/to eat/to drink/etc.]?

This phrase is another great question, which is easily adaptable to the situation. It can be linked to the first phrase, but it’s applications span much wider than meets the eye. It is the quickest way for you to immerse yourself in the Catalan culture, by understanding what the locals recommend to do, to eat or to drink. Planning for a trip to Barcelona is one thing, but talking to locals about what they like to do may help you can gain ideas that you might not have originally considered. Also once you begin to expand on your Catalan knowledge and vocabulary, you can ask for other types of recommendations, just insert an infinitive verb in the gap.

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Clarifying your Ability Level:

1) No parlo català / Parles anglès?

 I don’t speak Catalan / Do you speak English?

 There’s nothing wrong with being honest; any local Catalan-speaker would appreciate you and your intentions to speak in their native language, rather than just asking if they spoke English in English (or even in Spanish).

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2) Parlo una mica el Català.

I speak a little bit of Catalan.

This phrase could be used to add a little bit of nuance into your repertoire, whether you are clarifying your ability, practicing with your roommates or using other previously learned phrases in combination with this phrase.

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Three Catalan Expressions to Boost your Fluency

1) Tenir papallones a l’estómac

To have butterflies in your stomach

It’s okay to still be a little nervous about practicing a new language like Catalan, you might even have butterflies in your stomach. If you know Spanish then you might already be familiar with this expression above. If you want to vocalize your nervousness, you’d say “Jo tinc papallones a l’estómac” (which means I have butterflies in my stomach).

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2) Trencar el gel

To break the ice.

The key to getting rid of those “papallones a l’estomac” is by starting to speak with someone instead of drowning in the initial awkward silence. When you do approach your first local Catalan you can explain to them that you were just trying to “trencar el gel” because you’re new and you want to immerse yourself in their culture. And simply putting yourself out there and being honest and authentic, can be the difference between having an average experience in Barcelona and an extraordinary one.

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3) Fer-la petar

To have a long conversation

There is no literal translation for this expression; however, the closest idea would when you find yourself talking to a friend (be it a close one or a new one) for hours and you lose track of time. There no exact time limit for how long you have to be talking with your friend before you are “fent-la petar,” but when you really connect with someone and you talk for hours you might have already done it without realizing it.

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Traveling to a new country can be intimidating to say the least. However, you now have something that many students, travelers and foreigners don’t learn for a long time. You have the tools to step outside of your comfort zone. The tools to talk to someone new, “trencar el gel,” to make a new friend, and to truly immerse yourself in the culture of Barcelona. In some of the explanations above you’ve gained a few ideas of how you can combine some of the phrases, but there are much more possibilities for you to start a conversation. And as you’ve learned, starting the conversation with any Catalan can now be as easy as saying “hola,” so after arriving be sure to practice with a roommate, a friend or a local.

 

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