If you’re planning your next trip to Barcelona, you’re probably already dreaming of its stunning architecture, delicious tapas, and lively street music. And if you’re also thinking of how to make sure you get by smoothly from a language perspective then, first things first, props on being a considerate traveler!
But one major question a lot of people have on this point, especially anyone with an understanding on how Spanish differs in Spain compared to the rest of the world, is how to pronounce Barcelona. After all, that pesky C can cause issues, not to mention the hurdle of having to roll your R – and that’s not even considering if that B is going to be an extra burden!
Well, take a deep breath. As someone who lives in Spain and has been to Barcelona a ton of times, I can tell you exactly how the locals pronounce it – both those who speak Spanish and Catalan. I’ll get you pronouncing “Barcelona” like a local yourself in no time at all.
How to pronounce Barcelona
Barcelona is pronounced “bahr-suh-LOH-nuh” in English and “bar-the-LOH-nah” in Spanish from Spain with the rolled R and the soft “th” sound for the letter “c”. For Spanish from the rest of the world and in Catalan, the other official language in Barcelona, the letter “c” is pronounced more like “s” in English.
Yes, that’s right, there are two official languages in Catalonia, with people in Barcelona speaking Spanish and Catalan. So basically, however you choose to pronounce that pesky “c”, you’re going to be right!
Is Barcelona pronounced “Barthelona”?
In Spanish spoken in most parts of Spain, the letter “c” is pronounced with a very soft “th”. For this reason, it can sound like Barcelona is pronounced “Barthelona” in the form of Spanish spoken there. That’s not the case in Catalan though – or, for what it’s worth, English.
The story goes that an old Spanish King with a lisp was responsible for changing some Spanish pronunciations, and “Barcelona” allegedly became “Barthelona.” While it may sound like a fun fact about Barcelona, in reality, it’s not quite true.
If you do want to try to pronounce it like the local Spaniards, don’t say it with a very strong TH like the ending of “with” in English and especially not like the sound at the start of “that” in English. Instead, put your tongue behind your top teeth (not between your top and bottom teeth) and make the soft “th” sound that way.
Alternatively, at least in the center of the city, people generally speak English in Barcelona, so you don’t really need to try too hard while you’re there to get the Castilian pronunciation exactly right.
Also, as an aside: you know those people who come back from a trip to France and talk about how they were in “PAREEEE” and everyone rolls their eyes? Just thought I’d point that out for no reason at all in relation to anyone who chooses to go home and talk in English about their trip to BarTTHHHHHelona…
Understanding Spanish Pronunciation
Want to know more about Spanish pronunciation in Spain to get it just right? You’ve come to the right place! As someone who lives in Spain, while I’m not going to claim I’m totally fluent in the language, I at least hear how they pronounce it every day!
This page has a great explanation on how certain sounds are pronounced in Spanish along with recordings of how to say each of them. That particularly includes point 2 on that page which further explains the Spanish “lisp” in Spain for the letters C and Z.
For the purposes of learning how to pronounce Barcelona, you may also want to check out point 3 on that page, which is on the pronunciation of the letter B, as well as point 6, which goes into more detail on how to pronounce the letter R (including compared to the pronunciation of “rr”) in Spanish.
And before you know it, you’ll be sounding like a local in no time!
Are there any nicknames for Barcelona?
You may have heard people trying to shorten Barcelona’s name by calling it “Barça.” However, it’s important to know that this isn’t actually correct, as this is only a nickname for FC Barcelona. Instead, the nickname for the city is “Barna”.
I’ve heard locals in Barcelona getting genuinely annoyed when someone comes in calling their beloved city “Barça”, as it’s exclusively the nickname of the famous football club that calls the city home.
That said, “Barna” isn’t as well known outside of Spain so it may be easier to simply embrace the beauty of the city’s full name!
What’s the correct way to say Barcelona in Spanish?
The correct way to say Barcelona in Spanish from Spain is “bar-the-LOH-nah” with the rolled R and the soft “th” sound for the letter “c”. In Spanish from outside of Spain, it’s more like “bar-se-LOH-nah” with the similar rolled R but with a different sound for the “c”.
Keep in mind as well that the B in Spanish isn’t generally as hard as how it’s pronounced in English. Instead, it’s a bit softer – try to touch your lips together when pronouncing it rather than fully closing them and “pushing” as much as we do in English.
How is the C in Barcelona pronounced in Spain?
The letter C in the form of Spanish spoken in Spain is pronounced with a very soft “th” sound. The best way to do this is to put your tongue behind your top teeth (not between your top and bottom teeth) and make the soft “th” sound that way.
That said, there are other languages spoken in Spain besides Spanish and they’ll each pronounce the letter C in a different way. This includes in Catalan, the other official language of Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is located. There, the C is pronounced more like “ss”.
Does all of Spain pronounce C as “th”?
No, not all of Spain pronounces the C as a “th” sound, as there are parts of Spain in the south that pronounce C as “ss”. In addition, Spain’s other official languages don’t necessarily all pronounce C as “th”. This includes in Catalan, in which the C is pronounced like the letter S.
Why do people pronounce Barcelona like “Barthelona”?
People pronounce Barcelona as “Barthelona” because they’re trying to imitate the “th” sound that is typical in the Spanish spoken in most of Spain. However, this pronunciation isn’t accurate for the local Catalan language spoken in Barcelona and the wider Catalonia region.
Is it “Barthelona” or “Barcelona”?
For someone speaking Spanish from Spain, they will pronounce Barcelona as “Barthelona”. However, someone speaking in Catalan (or in Spanish from the rest of the world) will pronounce the C more like we do in English, with a sound similar to the letter S.
Basically, pronunciations may vary depending on where you are in Spain or the language you’re speaking. That said, no matter how you choose to say it, the pronunciation isn’t so different in the various languages, so you’ll definitely have no problem in being understood.