My week with Catalan: nit i dia

Comencem amb una introducció en català:

Hola, bon dia. Em dic Kenny. Tinc trenta-set anys. Sóc de Bèlgica, de la ciutat de Gant, però ara visc a Madrid i a Ocaña. Parlo neerlandès, anglès, francès, italià, portuguès brasiler, alemany, castellà i ara també una mica de català. He viscut a Bèlgica, Itàlia i ara m’estic a Espanya. Les meves aficions són llegir, cuinar, viatjar (ara un poc difícil ja ho sé), estudiar llenguatges (ara català i danès), jugar amb Rubi i Óscar, els meus gossos. Quan era petit volia ser fisioterapeuta com els meus pares, però he canviat d’idea i ara treballo de professor danglès.

 If you talk to a (wo)man in a language they understand…

Most people – if not almost all – who have Catalan as their native tongue are at least bilingual. I’d already be able to communicate with most of them in 🇪🇸🇫🇷🇮🇹. But a language is so much more than a tool to get your message through to your conversation partner(s). We use it to sing 🎶, write books 📚 and recipes 👨‍🍳, tell our personal history and the stories of our family, village, city, people and our language(s) indeed. Learning a new language is not only about irregular verbs and idioms, but even more so about discovering a new culture, its music, literature, cuisine, history and getting to know and really understand the people who speak it.

 “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Nelson Mandela

 Something sparked my interest

I have a strong interest in history, especially the political history of countries. I always try to read up on the history of the countries whose languages I speak/study/teach. Last summer I dove into Catalonia in Spain: History and Myth by Gabriel Tortella. Somewhere near the end the author mentioned that few people in Spain outside of the parts where Catalan is an official language – Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community (where it’s known as Valencian) have any knowledge of the language. Btw, outside of these regions Catalan is also a recognised minority language in Aragon and is spoken in a small area of the Region of Murcia. Actually, that lack of Spanish interest made me decide to check out Catalan on Duolingo (available atm only from Spanish and without pronunciation exercises). What started as a daily lesson with Mr Green Owl, as a side target language next to the 🇩🇰 I had started a few weeks earlier, turned into a 6-month streak on Duo, a steady 1 and often 2 hours study a day and now un intensiu setmana amb català.


Duolingo wasn’t my only tool this week. It’s nice to read “In 15 minutes a day you’ll learn a language” but I definitely need more than that to get where I want (fluency, B2 level).

An overview

  • I’ve been meditating on and off for a few years now through the Headspace app; available in 5 languages but unfortunately Catalan isn’t one of them. I went to Youtube and every morning I zenned along a meditation session in Catalan.
  • My good friends at Assimil always play an important roll in my language learning process: I am combining the 🇪🇸 El catalan sin esfuerzo and the more recent and modern 🇫🇷 Le catalan sans peine.
  • An easy book with a lot of everyday vocab just before falling asleep: Una família fora de sèrie (An out of the ordinary family) by Silvia Soler; the idea to read it without looking up vocab but surviving on context worked out fine.
  • Ample use of Lingq:
    • El Petit Príncep has now turned into the first book I read in a new language and I decided to use Lingq to focus on its vocab.
    • One of my favourite films is Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain; I watched it in original version, but uploaded the Catalan subtitles onto Lingq.
    • Last but not least, I uploaded the self-help book L’art de no amargar-se la vida (The art of not forking up your life) by Rafael Santandreu
  • Podcasts while running: La revolució sexual and Tranquil·la ment from radio RAC1; I did lower the speech rate to 80%.
  • News updates and some articles from El Punt Avui, El Nacional, Edició Catalunya d’EL PAÍS and La Vanguardia en català.
  • An episode a day of Merlì keeps the doctor away: public Catalan broadcaster TV3 has this wonderful TV series available online, free and with Catalan subtitles; a bit reminiscent of Antenna 3‘s Física y química but with an added layer of philosophy The series is also available on Amazon Prime, but with subtitles in Spanish. Btw, they should soon start working on an Italian and French version.
  • Well into my week I discoverd the pronunciation website Glossika and 🎉🥳🍾because together with Scottish Gaelic, Hakka, Kurdish, Manx, Hokkien, Welsh and Wenzhounese Catalan is one of the languages they offer for F.R.E.E.; unlimited spaced repetition practice it is!
  • Singing along (when nobody was around but my dogs) and discovering songs on Lyricstraining and Spotify.


A splitting headache, (but maybe I’d better use the word I saw the other day on Twitter: brainache), Catalan words popping up in my head daytime and dreamtime (well, at least just before falling asleep). Very similar to my experience when I moved to Italy more than a decade ago with some 3 years of evening classes in my suitcase. Then the result of being surrounded by Italian 24/7 and 40 hours a week living and working together with 7 teenagers and 3 adults talking the Italian way (🤌,shouting, discussing and arguing preferably all together and with their mouth full).

I definitely feel like I could have a conversation with a native speaker or someone else who masters the language; having said that, please let’s limit it to a conversation about me, myself and I (as egocentric as it sounds at my level – somewhere around A2 I guess – it’s the easiest stuff to talk about) and when I trip I’ll fill in the blanks thanks to my knowledge of 🇪🇸🇫🇷🇮🇹🇧🇷, but atm we’re still in village lockdown here in Castilla-La Mancha.

What I do missed a bit during this week was grammar (language nerd AND grammar freak here), so today I decided to put Ortografía y gramática catalanas para dummies on my Kindle. But if I hang on to it or not will be something for another blog post.