Is Barcelona a good place to learn Spanish? No it is not.

Is Barcelona a good place to learn Spanish?

No. Barcelona is not a very good place to study Spanish and certainly not the best place in Spain to study Spanish.

It is possible to study Spanish in Barcelona because it is still a city in Spain, but it is not ideal dor Spanish study and most people would agree that are many better cities in Spain to study Spanish which included, for example, Salamanca, Valladolid, Madrid, Sevilla or Granada to name but a few. 

The main reasons for this are that Barcelona is a very touristy city and that the city uses the Catalan language as the first language and as an official language. Although Barcelona is in Spain there have been many many changes in Barcelona in recent years with a strong shift towards using the Catalan language instead of Spanish.

There are however several good quality Spanish schools in Barcelona, but before you book Spanish classes, consider these reasons why Barcelona is not perhaps not the best choice to study Spanish in Spain. 

These are only our opinions and an attempt at an honest answer - we love Barcelona - we live here - and our website attempts is to promote Barcelona as the wonderful tourist destination that it is.

Barcelona is also a very nice city for foreigners to live in and for tourists to visit, so we definately recommend that you come visit Barcelona, if you are planning to study Spanish in Spain.

Having said that, if you want to learn to speak Spanish and have the opportunity to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and speak Spanish outside the Spanish school, then Barcelona is not a good place to learn Spanish. 

Here's why we think Barcelona is not a good choice to study Spanish.

Many residents prefer to speak Catalan in Barcelona
Barcelona is the capital of the automomous community of Catalonia - 'Comunidad Autónoma de Cataluña' - also often called the province of Catalonia or the region of Catalonia. In Catalonia many residents prefer to speak the local langauge of this region, which is called Catalan. The Catalan language is very similar to Spanish with origin in Latin language, but it's not the same as Spanish. Many words are the same as in Spanish but Catalan has quite different pronunciation, which makes it difficult to understand for students of Spanish.

Street signs are not in Spanish
Almost all residents of Barcelona - and of Catalonia - speak Spanish (Castellano) but not all residents consider it their first language and you will often hear Catalan spoken in the street. Furthermore although both Spanish and Catalan are official language of Catalonia, all Barcelona street signs are in Catalan only.

Advertising is mostly in Catalan
Many brochures and store catalogues are in Catalan only. Also many Local TV and radio stations are in Catalan language and in towns and villages outside Barcelona one very rarely sees written Spanish. All this means that immersion is a challenge. You of course watch national TV channgels in Spanish in Barcelona of course, but again there are several Catalan broadcasters and even the national broadcasters have periods in their schedule of Catalan language programming.

Mix of Spanish & Catalan
Often people mix in Catalan words when they speak Spanish and because the Catalan langauge is so similar to Spanish that for new Spanish students,  it is difficult to distinguish between the two langauges when listening or reading. For example you often see a sign that says 'sortida' which means exit.  Is it Spanish word? It sounds Spanish. But it is in fact Catalan. In Spanish the word for exit is 'salida.' Both sound Spanish to a beginner.

Tourism & local culture
Barcelona is fantastic for tourists and for young people to visit in general, and a fantastic place to learn Catalan, but perhaps not so great for Spanish students. You will have a wonderful time in Barcelona if you come to study Spanish, but it's tough to practise Spanish as there are very few areas in Barcelona that are untouched by tourism. This means it's increasingly difficult to live 'as a local Spaniard' in Barcelona. Most of the restaurants and nightlife is geared towards tourists with many foreigners working behind the bar. There are many young Catalans working in hotels and cafes and they prefer to speak English to people who look foreign. That's good service for tourists but unhelpful for Spanish students. Even when you ask them to speak Spanish to you then often keep speaking English to practise their English skills.

Barcelona is a modern city. Cities are not musuems. They are on the forefront of progress and change and this means that there are not many old and authentic bars left in the city. The ones that manage to survive are mostly full of tourists looking for authentic bars.

We love tourists, we love tourism and we understand that when the whole world wants to travel, then cities and cultures change, evolve and merge - and in many ways for the better, but this process does dilute local culture somewhat in cities and so you risk being immersed in tourist culture more than in Spanish culture.

But it cannot be denied that Barcelona has become a more touristy city in the last 10 years, which means that many of the central Spanish schools are now surrounded by hotels and tourist cafes, so a Spanish student will often meet more tourists than locals. Many young local people work in bars and cafes and would rather practise their English with foreigners than speak to them in Spanish.

Politics
There are other challenges for Spanish students in Barcelona. Over the last 20 years and in particular the last 10 years there has been a growing conflict between Spain and the region of Catalonia. in Barcelona. Around half the population of Catalonia consider themselves much more Catalan than Spanish.

This is of course their choice, but for Spanish students trying to meet locals and speak Spanish it can become tiring to often have conversations about how "Catalonia is not Spain" and listen to anti-Spanish sentiments, talk of politics and generally constantly be reminded of how many Catalans think Spain treats Catalonia.

Freedom of speech is a democratic right and a wonderful thing, but perhaps if Spanish students want to study Spanish and celebrate Spanish culture and language, then Catalonia might is not really be the best place at the present time.

Cost
Finally we would say that for language students Barcelona is expensive. Learning a basic level of Spanish takes 4 or 8 weeks and there are simply cheaper and better deals in other Spanish cities. The tourist boom and tourist apartments in Barcelona have pushed property prices up in recent years, which drives teacher salaries up, so school fees are more expensive.

For students renting student apartments and rooms the city become much more expensive also for food. You can study Spanish at half the cost in other Spanish cities.

Conclusion
In conclusion, we love Barcelona, we love Catalonia and we love Spain, we love tourists and we love progress - in our opinion both Spanish and Catalan people and culture are unique and worth getting to know, so do come and visit Barcelona and experience both, but our answer to the question, 'is Barcelona a good place to learn Spanish?' is generally no. 

For international business students, however, Barcelona is a great place to study abroad if your studies are in English. And Barcelona has a vibrant business start-up culture and many co-working facitilites.

For other university subjects check before you sign up, because most of the Universities in Barcelona now teach classes in Catalan, which can cause difficulties.

Tip for choosing a Spanish school in Barcelona

Try to avoid Spanish schools in city center near Plaza Catalunya and surrounded by hotels and tourist shops. You will be surrounded by tourists and tourists shops. It's not really authentic Spain. If you still decide to study Spanish in Barcelona, then there are a number of good quality schools.

avoid school in a very touristy area because you will find yourself surrounded by tourists and international food shops all day. Better to find a smaller school a little off center which will be cheaper and more authentic.

Check the link below for the best Spanish schools in Barcelona

Best Spanish schools Barcelona

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2019 13:39