Barcelona Travel Diaries: Language & Culture


Dear Diary,

Lmao just kidding, I´m not going to open my travel diaries like that. However,  these will consist mostly of my personal musings and observations about different things related to my travels, with a few pretty pictures here and there. No ¨How-to´s¨ or ¨10 ways...¨ here, just my and my thoughts.

Something I´m ashamed to admit is that until about a month before I took this trip I had not considered the stark differences between spanish culture, and hispanic culture, or even the fact they are two very different things. It wasn't even until I was watching a spanish drama that I realized that even the type of spanish spoken in spain is different than what you would hear latin persons speaking. Of course this should not have come as a surprise to me, as even english is spoken differently from the U.S to London to Ireland, or even from Arkansas to California let's be honest.  I gave myself a free pass since my cultural horizons could only be so broad as someone who - at that point - had never been out of the country. But now since watching those riveting episodes of the Grande Hotel (highly recommend), and since being here my knowledge of the language and culture has been greatly expanded.

Castellano spanish is the type of spanish spoken here, the main distinction being that the soft ¨c¨ sound is pronounced ¨th¨. So the way that we say Barcelona, would be pronounced ¨Barthelona¨. It definitely has a very lisp-y quality to it, but when spoken by natives it is a beautiful language. When spoken by me….well, anyway moving on. Something I didn't know until arriving is that Castellano isn´t just native to spain but to Barcelona specifically. A trip to Valencia (Valenthia?), madrid, the islands, or the countryside would each result in hearing different types of spanish. Again, this shouldn't be as surprising as it is considering english is exactly the same way but I was still fascinated by this knowledge.  

People who did know about Castellano Spanish being the prominent language here have asked me about adjusting to  using the ¨th¨ in place of the ¨c¨. In all honesty, it's been more difficult to remember to pronounce¨ j¨ as¨ h¨ and that´s typical Spanish pronunciation. But I´ve also noticed that, that is not the only way I hear Spanish spoken. In fact, I´ve only heard Gracias pronounced the Castellano way by a few people. I realized that despite Barcelona having its own version of Spanish, this is still a very international city. I hear the ¨typical¨Spanish as often as I hear Castellano, as often as I hear Croatian, french, German and English. And I won't lie, it was a relief knowing I wouldn't be frowned at for not using Castellano pronunciation because I just don´t know about all that.

Another language I hear spoken, almost more than Spanish is Catalan, a language I hadn't given any thought to until I stepped off of the plane. Catalan, native to Catalonia, can be loosely defined as a mix of Spanish and French with a little more Spanish than French. This is especially evident in writing, where Catalan combines articles and words beginning with a vowel with an apostrophe, like the French. (Example La Amour = lámour ), as well as in the overall flow of the language. However you are more likely to understand Catalan as a Spanish speaker than a French speaker, which is great for me who took three years of French in high school :)   

As I write this, there is a separatist movement by Catalonia to form their own country independent of Spain. Spanish Government, of course, is ¨not about that¨ for multiple reasons, not the least among them that Barcelona is located in Catalonia territory. Since being here, I have witnessed three Catalonia protests, and multiple banners advertising the separatist agenda. This is specifically interesting to me because I have never witnessed political unrest of this type.  

Siesta´s are apparently not a thing, at least not for me. Many shops and restaurants do close for a few hours during the afternoon, but as far as I can tell the working people take normal lunch breaks and then go back to the grind. It's too bad because I was truly looking forward to napping.

I was warned about there being no AC but that did nothing to prepare me for facing the reality of a summer in spain without air conditioning. Spain, where the sun doesn't set until 9:30 or actually leave the sky until a few minutes after 10pm smh. A scam.

All that being said, my favorite part of spanish culture is the attitude. Barcelona is a big city so of course there is a level of ¨hustle & bustle¨ that can´t be avoided, but it is so apparent how much more relaxed and carefree everyone here is, compared to the states. Even without the highly anticipated siestas, I feel a great deal more at peace surrounded by people who focus more on leisure and experiences than work and income.

That´s all for now, 

Mercedes Bell



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