Catalan in the Balearic Islands

  1. Social situation of Catalan
  2. Catalan at the school
  3. Catalan in the media
  4. Catalan in the administration
  5. The toponyms
  6. The anthroponyms

It may be true, as recent statistics indicate that the inhabitants of the Balearic Islands with the Catalan as their first language, are not any more the majority. But it is also true, that this language now has an undeniable social prestige. That is thanks to the determination of many islanders, who regardless of their origin, have decided to live, feel and ultimately interpret our world in Catalan.

Catalan is the Balearic Islands language, with dialectal variants in each of the islands, although in all of them we can find some common features, as the maintenance of ancient forms into disuse in other areas such as the “salty” articles es, sa and so in place of el, la and lo.

1.- Social situation of Catalan

Catalan is a very alive language in the Balearic Islands, which coexists with Spanish, the other official language. Next we add two tables, taken from the study; Language and Society in the Catalan-speaking territories at the beginning of the twenty-first century, made by the Secretariat of Linguistic Policy of the Generalitat of Catalonia, which show a very clear picture of the current situation of Catalan in the Balearic Islands.


Understand Catalan

Speak Catalan

Read Catalan

Write  Catalan

Total population





15-29 years





30-44 years





45-64 years





65 years and more





Linguistic identification



Both languages

Other situations

First language





Identification language





Habitual language





To interpret these data should be kept in mind two circumstances, which have considerably moved back the social use of Catalan in favour of Spanish. First, the repression suffered by the language during the 40 years of Franco’s dictatorship, held it to the family use and the high immigration that began in the 60’s of the twentieth century, with people from other parts of Spain, which continues today with people from Latin America and Africa. The fact that Catalan was prohibited in the education until almost the late 70’s, explains why among the older people the number of persons who can write in Catalan is much inferior, because they received their education exclusively in Spanish. This has resulted in that the phenomenon of diglossia is very present in our society. In other words, people with Catalan as their first language, but when they have to read or write they use Spanish.

Many curses are organized to help these people to learn reading and writing in Catalan, but often it is difficult. Moreover, due to the ignorance of standard Catalan, which is used in the written media.

One final note about these data, is that correspond to the average of the four islands, which have a heterogeneous situation. In the “Part Forana” of Mallorca (the whole island except Palma) and Menorca, the weight of Catalan is much higher than in Ibiza, Formentera, Palma and the municipality of Calvià in Mallorca, where the use of Spanish is more noticeable.

2.- Catalan at the school

With the recovery of democracy in Spain, the Catalan language has been gaining ground in the classroom, to the current situation that is regulated by a decree of minimums, which requires giving at least half the classes in Catalan. But the reality is that the vast majority of schools have language immersion programs, by which Catalan is the only language used in the classes. Leaving the Spanish language as a subject more. This model has provided to be the most efficient to make sure the learning of both languages, because Catalan is at clear disadvantage in many areas of society outside the school.

This causes that at the majority of schools, children do not start learning Spanish until they are 7 years old. Which does not mean, that this is a foreign language for those children, because it is very present in all spheres of our society. But it is true, that learning Spanish is delayed.

3.- Catalan in the media

The media on the Balearic Islands mostly uses Spanish, but in all areas there are alternatives in Catalan, always closely connected to public subsidies. We should add that in the majority of the media produced in Spanish on the islands, Catalan is not vetoed.

As for the press, from the 9 newspapers published in the Balearic Islands 7 are in Spanish, one is in English and one in Catalan with a minority audience. However, where Catalan is the predominant language is in the weekly or monthly local publications, that we find in all villages and towns.

Regarding to the audiovisual media, Spanish is again the predominant language, although the public radio and TV channels from the Balearic Islands and Catalonian governments, offer a good quality production.

Finally, in Internet we find a little bit of everything, where Catalan is not the predominant language, but neither it is clear that it is Spanish, because we find many websites dealing with topics about the Balearic Islands in other languages, mainly in English and German.

4.- Catalan in the administration

We must distinguish between the state and the local administration, in the state one we have the justice department or the police, where Catalan is almost non-existent. While on the other side there is the finance administration, which offers all documents in Spanish and Catalan, letting to choose the language to perform any procedure.

Instead the local government, which in addition to the councils covers aspects as important as health or education, is firmly committed to the recovery of Catalan. Officials there are required certain Catalan proficiency, and the documentation often is only written in this language. This does not mean that the procedures cannot be in Spanish, but usually is given prominence to Catalan.

5.- The toponyms

The name of the sites until the return of democracy were written with the Spanish spelling. However today the official names are written in Catalan, and thus we find external signs and official maps of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The problem is that some foreign texts, still use the Spanish spelling and this can lead to confusion when interpreting an address. This problem is aggravated, with the behaviour of some employers, who reject the Catalan spelling, reaching even to translate into Spanish the names of the streets. Due to the phenomenon of diglossia mentioned above, or for ideological reasons.

6.- The anthroponyms

During the 40 years of darkness that menat the dictatorship of General Franco for the Catalan language, in the Civil Registry the names of people hat to be enrolled in Spanish. We find many of the people born during this period, with the first name on all official documentation in Spanish, despite being known by their name in Catalan. You can be all your lifelong known as Bernat or Margalida, but on all documentation be Bernardo or Margarita. People interested can solve this anomaly, performing the established procedure.

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