Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Learning Spanish: Bilingual in Barcelona...

Cafés in Vila de Gracia Learning Spanish - Today is only our second day in Barcelona. We experienced unusual thunderstorms and heavy rains during the night, but ventured out anyways in the morning drizzle.

While we are still exploring the district where our apartment is located - Gràcia - (see our favorite Vila de Gràcia square above) we also are figuring out how to get around the city with public transportation.

Public Transportation

Our first goal: to get a metro and bus pass. The number of choices are amazing!

Using our basic Spanish (learned with GamesforLanguage Spanish 1), we found out about passes for 10 trips, 50 trips in 30 days, 30 days unlimited, daily passes, etc. etc. We finally settled on a pass of 70 trips in 30 days for families (including couples). The price: Euro 51.80 - which breaks down to only $.74 per trip for each of us, if we use all of them. Quite a deal!

Learning Spanish in Museums

With this pass, we took our first subway trip to the Plaza d'Espanya and the CaixaForum. Inaugurated in February 2002, CaixaForum is the Barcelona headquarters of Fundació "laCaixa" - a social and cultural foundation belonging to "la Caixa" savings bank. The Forum is situated in an old but wonderfully renovated textile factory.

view of entrance of CaixaForum, BarcelonaBenefiting from the free admission, we saw two fabulous exhibitions: one of Francisco Goya (with many works lent by Madrid's Prado), the other of Eugène De La Croix (with works lent by Paris' Louvre). All descriptions of the paintings were in two languages: no, not in English – but in Spanish and in Catalan. Barcelona is indeed a bilingual city.

Not having had any exposure to Catalan before, we were surprised that we could easily understand the Catalan descriptions of the paintings as well as the Spanish ones. But why be surprised?

Yesterday, fresh off the airplane, I bought the “blue” edition of “el Periódico,” the local newspaper. Sitting in an outdoor café, we skimmed over some of the headlines and read a few articles. We only realized after a while that we were reading the Catalan edition! (The Spanish edition has red as a background color.)

As stated in the Lonely Planet guide, Catalan “belongs to the group of Western European languages that grew out of Latin, including Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.” Many of the words in our newspaper resembled Italian and French. A knowledge of both of these languages helped us understand the newspaper articles and the descriptions in the CaixaForum.

At both lunch and dinner, our menus came in two languages: Spanish and Catalan. (We are describing in "Solving Lunch and Dinner Mysteries" some of the clues we used...) 

So all you anglophiles: Brush up on your romance languages, if you want to know what you are seeing and what you are eating in Barcelona!

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.