Menorca holidays give visitors with some knowledge of the Spanish language an opportunity to brush off their old text books and practice the language, but you may not know that the Balearic islands have a Catalan heritage, with their own dialects of the Catalan language found widely spread in north-eastern Spain, centred on Barcelona.
Although Castilian Spanish and Balearic Catalan are both official languages of Menorca, the locals mostly speak the Catalan variant known as Menorquí as their native language. Most people on the island also speak fluent Spanish as their second language, although many of the people who have moved to the island only speak Spanish.
The locals are understandably proud of their linguistic heritage, and those on Menorca holidays will make an excellent impression on the locals if they at least attempt a few of the basics. Picking up a little standard Catalan will help you get a long way, although there are a number of dialect differences, giving the Balearic variety of the Catalan language a distinctive flavour.
More than a language
Travellers on Menorca holidays will likely have some idea of the complex history that Spain had in the 20th century, the Civil War in the 1930s, followed by forty years of Franco’s fascist rule, but they might not know about the importance of the regional languages during this time. Standard (Castilian) Spanish had long had a position of dominance over the many Spanish regional languages; however, during the Second Republic the regional languages of Catalan, Galician and Basque were given official recognition for the first time. Following the protracted civil war between 1936 and 1939, this process was dramatically reversed by Franco’s nationalist forces.
It was decreed that Spanish films would be produced only in Castilian Spanish, while foreign films had to be dubbed in the language. Spanish names were to be used and Spanish versions of Catholic and classical names were enforced. It became forbidden during this time for parents to christen children with non-Castilian Spanish names. Since the restoration of democracy from the 1970s onwards, there has been an increase in the official acceptance of the regional languages such as Catalan, although the language played a vital role in preserving regional identity during the years of nationalist rule.
Menorquí features some unique loan-words gifted to it from English, betraying its colonial past. Visitors on Menorca holidays with particularly sharp hearing might notice the odd word that sounds familiar; these include ‘grevi’ for gravy, ‘boinder’ for bow-window, and ‘sarg’ for bully from sergeant – a true betrayal of the relationship between the Brits and the Menorcan residents.