How to Get By in Barcelona With Little Spanish and Catalan


If “Hola” and “Gracias” are two of the few words that exist in your Spanish vocabulary,  and your Catalan is equally limited,  give yourself a pat on the back for not letting the fear of a language barrier stop you from traveling to one of the beautiful cities in the world. While the differences in language can be immediately overwhelming and you might assume that no one will understand what you’re saying, we’re here to tell you that this isn’t true at all! Even if you’re not fluent in Catalan and Spanish, there are many ways to bridge the language gap between you and Barcelona locals without the frustration or fear of being able to communicate efficiently. If you’re searching on how to immerse yourself in the beautiful local languages as a non-native speaker, we have the tips that you need on How to Get By in Barcelona With Little Spanish and Catalan.

Tip 1: Learn Basic Phrases Before You Go

Even though Barcelona is recognized as a tourist  city where locals are used to dealing and speaking with tourists on a daily basis, it is still important to try to learn a few basic phrases before you go in order to show locals that you are attempting to speak their language. We can assure you that knowing standard keywords will go a long way in making communication much easier, such as learning the basic phrases of hola, gracias, por favor, and adios in Spanish, and their equivalent in Catalan, hola, gràcies, sisplau and adeu. Make sure that when you talk to locals you speak slowly and clearly so that it will make it easier for them to understand what you are saying!

Tip 2: Download SayHi

If you’re lost track of time and didn’t get the chance to brush up on your Spanish and Catalan vocabulary, no need to cancel your flight to Barcelona, but instead, download SayHi, the universal translator that offers speech-to-speech translation for over 90 languages, including Catalan and Spanish to English. This technology savvy app allows you to carry a conversation with a local with ease and it saves you from the awkwardness of getting stuck on a sentence or phrase!

Tip 3: Use Body Language to Communicate

When you’ve used all your words in your limited Catalan and Spanish vocabulary and the locals still don’t understand what you’re trying to say, turn to body language and hand gestures to help you get your point across. Even if you think you might look silly flailing your arms in an attempt to figure out which way you need to go, these gestures will absolutely make your communication more understandable—and give the locals a laugh too.

Tip 4: Smile and Be Kind

Keep in mind that when you’re visiting Barcelona, you’re visiting someone else’s home! We understand that a language barrier can be incredibly frustrating when you’re trying to communicate your message, but common courtesy should never be lost while trying to talk with the locals. When you smile and show respect to them, you will find that they will be even more willing to help you out with what you need!

Tip 5: Immerse Yourself in the Local Languages

There is no doubt that learning the local languages while you’re living in Barcelona will make your experience so much more enjoyable. Even though speaking your imperfect Spanish and Catalan to a local might seem frightening, they’ll appreciate you respecting their country enough to want to learn and feel proud to share their culture with you. Immerse yourself with this beautiful language by partaking in spontaneous conversations by ordering your paella at restaurants in Catalan or by reading a Spanish novela on a bench outside Plaça de Catalunya.

Regardless of your choice, each way will assist you with getting connected with sites and culture, and finally free yourself from that awful language barrier. By taking full advantage of your time here in Barcelona to become the fluent Spanish and Catalan speaker you’ve always dreamed to be, you’ll not only leave Barcelona with locals not being able to distinguish your non-native tongue–but you’ll also feel like a local yourself.


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