It’s often asked by those who just don’t know if Catalan is a dialect of Spanish. It’s not. They’re both “dialects” of Latin, although at this point, one would go so far as to say that they’re separate languages due to the fact that a Latin speaker and a Spanish or Catalan speaker wouldn’t be able to understand one another. To those visiting, it probably seems that this isn’t the case as there is a lot of overlap between Catalan and Spanish like they both say “hola” as well as things such as “adiós” and “bienvenido” being “adéu” and “benvingut” in Catalan. These are just a few of many, so you can see where people get this whole “dialect” idea from, although I’m guessing it has more to do with Catalonia being part of Spain than anything else. For instance, Macedonian and Bulgarian are mutually intelligible dialects of one another, but no English speaker would ever assume that as they’re separate countries and no one from either of those countries wants to admit it.
But, when you actually dig down in to it and start really working with Catalan, many things are completely different. For instance while “dog” is “perro” in Spanish, it’s “gos” in Catalan. But let’s look at food, because it’s in the language of food where you find the truth of a people.
“bocadillo con jamón y queso”
That is basically a ham sandwich with cheese, but it’s oh, oh, oh so delicious as it’s with Spanish ham and manchego, drizzled with olive oil. This isn’t something limited to Castillian speakers though and it is widely available and vastly consumed in Catalonia as well, but there it’s:
“entrepà amb pernil i formatge”
Look at that. There is nothing that matches up, yet it means the exact same thing. If you still think that’s still a dialect of Spanish, let me know how.
There is some humor from this though as it is often the case that Catalan words end with the “ll” letter like “coll” which means “neck”. It also happens that there are a number of words that are quite similar to Spanish, but that they drop an ending vowel such as “cat” which is “gato” in Spanish and “gat” in Catalan. So a dorky, polyglot joke in Catalonia is to ask for a:
“bocadill amb jamó i ques”
Quite ridiculous and it’s a joke that really only makes sense for Catalan speakers, who will most likely smirk if you ask for it. But don’t worry, it will taste just as good as a “bocadillo con jamón y queso” except that the bread will be rubbed with tomato and garlic, making it even better actually. Why do I bring this up? Because I’m heading there again for some work on Sunday and staying for the rest of the year and getting fat on pernil in all its heavenly culinary incarnations.