THE situation will be familiar to the vast majority of expats who relocate to the Valencia region, especially in smaller, more ‘traditional’ towns.
You make an effort to learn some basic Spanish, enough to get by at first, and perhaps listen keenly to conversations in the street in order to improve your comprehension and get more of a feel for the language.
But wait, that’s not Spanish… why are they saying ‘bon dia’ instead of ‘buenos días’? How come you say ‘gracias’ but they say ‘gràcies’? And what does ‘adéu’, or even ‘au’, mean? Surely they should be saying ‘adiós’?
Welcome to the wonderful world of valenciano.
To cut an incredibly long and politically charged story very short, several regions in Spain developed their own languages before being integrated into the kingdom of Castilla, in a similar way to Scots, Irish and Welsh.
Valencia was initially part of the Corona de Aragón together with Catalunya and the Balearic Islands, eventually becoming separated from each other within the wider spectrum of Spain.
This has led to each of the three autonomous communities having their own distinct dialects of the same basic language, which could very broadly be described as something of a combination between Spanish and French.
So does that mean you now have to learn two languages to live here, instead of one?
While Spanish is usually enough to get by with, as the vast majority of people in the region are bilingual and most official communications are issued in both languages, there can be instances where a familiarity with valenciano can be extremely useful – as well as fascinating.
If you have children at local schools, they will have valenciano classes and require help with homework. If you live in a predominantly Valencian-speaking area, valencià will be the language spoken by your neighbours, in shops and at the town hall.
Luckily, help is at hand with Aprende valenciano.
The brainchild of Ireland-born Iseult Harrington, Aprende valenciano is an online self-study Valencian course for complete beginners – something Iseult herself could have done with when she moved to Valencia seven years ago.
A self-confessed ‘language nerd’, she is a medical translator with a passion for modern languages who lived in Madrid for several years before moving to the land of oranges and paella.
“When I arrived here it was very difficult to find courses for people who didn’t have at least a C1 [intermediate] level,” Iseult told The Olive Press.
“So I began to study it by myself, and found it very useful to have visual aids to make it easier to learn. I compiled a wealth of materials to help me get to a B1 or B2 level, and then started attending valenciano lessons at an academy.”
Her own experience formed the basis for Aprende valenciano. With the help of local teacher Lara, Iseult set up a website to provide entry-level knowledge for English and Spanish learners in an engaging, non-exam-oriented way.
“I had two main aims with the project: I wanted to give back what I had learnt, and help promote the language. There are many people out there who would like to learn in order to chat to their neighbours or help their children with homework, and so far we have had a very high level of participation.”
In addition to the online course, Iseult and Lara have created a Youtube channel and a public Facebook page offering beginner’s grammar and vocabulary, tips, quizzes and much more, plus plans for a Zoom conversation group, providing an initial contact with valenciano for those who plan to start a course or simply have an interest in the language.
Just click ‘Like’ on Facebook and become part of a growing community of budding expat British and Spanish valencians, with over 380 followers at the time of reporting but growing by 10 to 15 new subscribers every day.
Plans are also on the table for intensive summer courses for expats, stay tuned to the Facebook page for any updates and news.
“It’s a labour of love,” concludes Iseult. “I think it’s a shame that more people don’t speak the language, and I’m happy to be able to do my bit to promote it.”
- Website: https://www.aprendevalenciano.com/
- Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0cqhiB4h_tk5bQYLdQ6rtg
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Aprende-valenciano-107534631203452/