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Andorra - Speaking the Language

The official language of Andorra is Catalan, reflecting the historic ethnicity of the local population.

However, society in Andorra has changed significantly over the past century. Due to the nation’s position between Spain and France, it has always had close connections with, and received migrants from, those two neighbours. Its wealth has also attracted newcomers from other areas of Europe and the wider world.

As a result, in 2016, two thirds of its 77,281 residents did not have Andorran nationality. Those who live in Andorra with foreign citizenship cannot vote in communal elections, own more than 33 percent of the capital stock of a privately held company, or be elected as prime minister.

The government in Andorra is keen to protect the use of Catalan as the dominant language. Free classes in the Catalan language are funded by the state, as is la comissió de toponimia d’Andorra (a commission for Catalan toponymy), meaning the study of place names.

Other Languages In Andorra

Since Andorra is home to so many expats, less than 40 percent of its residents have Catalan as their first language. At 35 percent, Spanish as a first language is almost as widespread as Catalan.

Roughly 15 percent of its residents identify as Portuguese speakers, making it the next most widespread language in the nation. When you are out and about, many of the cashiers, builders and cleaners will be Portuguese, and you will be able to spot Portuguese products in the supermarkets if you know what to look for.

Less than six percent of Andorran residents speak French as their first language, despite the fact that trading connections with nearby France are strong.

Andorra’s residents are generally well educated and live in a society dominated by tourists and international residents. As a result, most local people can speak at least one foreign language in addition to their native Catalan.

English is not widely spoken in many areas of Andorra. There are some tourist areas, in particular the Pas de la Casa, which attract crowds of British holidaymakers, including those going on package tours. These areas attract English-speaking business owners and their staff, who provide services specifically for that segment of the tourist industry. This means you’ll meet many English-speaking people in this area.

Do I Need To Learn Catalan To Live In Andorra?

Whilst it isn’t a legal requirement for all residents of Andorra to speak Catalan, some basic ability in the language will help you integrate and make your life easier.

If you are going to work in the banking sector or in a resort popular with British tourists, you will be able to get by with English and some occasional help from Google Translate. However, in most other workplaces you won’t be able to communicate with your colleagues if you can’t speak another language, which will hamper both your job search and your ability to do your job well.

When shopping, many staff will speak Catalan or Portuguese, with English usually limited to a few words. Similarly, few of your neighbours will speak fluent English unless you live in an area popular with English speakers.

Loneliness can be a major obstacle for expats around the world. Without the company of friends and family nearby, you need to build up a new network for support, friendship and entertainment. Not being able to speak the common language will be a real barrier to making friends.

Where To Learn Catalan

It is possible to begin learning Catalan for free and in your own time by using websites such as:
Easy Catalan
Language Courses UK

The website Fluent In 3 Months gives a quick introduction to the language.

However, if you wish to attend classes, allowing a teacher to moderate your speaking skills and helping you to make friends while you learn, you have a number of options. For example, InLingua is a private language school provider.

The Andorran administrative districts can also help get you started. The government actively promotes the learning of Catalan by migrants living in the principality. In each of the seven administrative districts is a centre which provides Catalan lessons for free, five days a week. They start at a simple level, building up to A2 level, at which point you can hold a conversation. You can choose from group classes or private lessons, and will have the chance to attend a session outside the centre, such as in a cafe, to practice your new language skills.

The Comte de Foix Lyceum also offers free French lessons. These are available twice a week, and last for an hour and a half. As they are very popular, the classes of 30 fill up very quickly.

TV And Radio Stations In Andorra

All television and radio stations operating in Andorra broadcast in Catalan. However, you will be able to access to programmes transmitted from France and Spain.

Andorra Telecom, also known as SOM, operates the divisions of SOM Telefonia Mobil for mobile/cell phone services, SOM Internet i Telefonia Fixa for broadband and fixed phone line services, as well as SOM Televisio for terrestrial TV services. You can stream films from their pay-per-view online services, while they also maintain the technical infrastructure by which digital television and radio are broadcast across the territory.

Expats from the UK may wish to use the BBC iPlayer app to download television content, but will experience difficulty doing so. The iPlayer terms and conditions restrict access to UK locations, as only UK residents pay the mandatory TV Licence, and VPN IP addresses from outside the UK have their access to the iPlayer blocked.

Most of the BBC radio and podcasts are made available to listeners outside the UK, although an occasional sporting event or other restricted content will be limited to those in UK locations for legal reasons.

Andorra Has World Leading Broadband Systems

Government officials are appointed to the Andorra Telecom Board of Directors. Effective government support, and the 2006 decision process that led to adoption of the ultra-fast FTTH broadband system, meant that by June 2012 every home in Andorra had fast access to the internet. Andorra is a world leader in access to the FTTH broadband system, which delivers minimum speeds of 100 Mbps. Any households still having to use slower broadband receive their internet for free while they await the upgrade.

For comparison, and to show how impressive the Andorran achievement is, the 2010 UK coalition government set a target that 90 percent of homes would have superfast access by 2015, which was achieved just a few months late. However, speeds averaging 24 Mbps, which are considered fast in the UK, are far from the current global evaluation of superfast. FTTH is so rare in the UK that in September 2017, it could not be even included in the 2018 FTTH Global Ranking compiled by the FTTH Council Europe.

Newspapers In Andorra

Despite being a small principality, Andorra has three national newspapers: Diari d’Andorra, El Periòdic d'Andorra, and Bondia. A number of local newspapers are also produced.

English language newspapers are imported in small quantities to a number of tourist centres. However, they will be a day late and cost more than the domestic price.

The online site All Andorra can be read in your choice of English, French or Russian. As its name implies, all content relates directly to Andorra and its residents. It covers a range of topics including news stories, events, and opinions.

Read more about this country

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