You don't have to come to Catalonia to learn Catalan: it can be done from anywhere. All you need is an internet connection. In fact, some 307,000 have already done so using the website parla.cat (from the verb parlar, "to speak"), promoted by the Catalan government Directorate-General for Language Policy, the Ramon Llull Institute and the Consortium for Linguistic Standardisation. Using the platform, students can even get formal qualifications. The online courses, at the lower levels, are translated into Spanish, French, English and German to help beginners starting from zero.
Parla.cat offers 12 modules, split into four levels: basic, elementary, intermediate and proficiency. Each level contains three modules, based on the official Catalan proficiency exams. Each module takes approximately 45 hours to complete. The courses, designed to be highly interactive, combine audiovisual and written materials and voice chats for practice. The website also has a space, the "Virtual Rambla", giving learners leisure and cultural opportunities in their new language with, for example, songs, poems, book excerpts and games.
Free and paid versions
There are two paths for learners to choose from: the free, self-guided version and the paid version with a tutor. New users first take a quiz to work out which level they should start with. In the free version, once signed up, you then have access to the interactive materials, aimed at enabling self-evaluation.
Opting for the tutored version also gives you access to official exams of Catalan proficiency. Students can send work to their tutor for correction, with feedback videochats being held in some cases. The price is €14.50 per basic module, €38.50 per elementary module, €51.50 per intermediate module and €100.50 per proficiency module, with discounts available for different groups. Registration for tutored courses is currently closed, with the next sign-up window opening from 7th to 14th January, for courses to start from the 16th. New groups start on a monthly basis.
Students who live close to one of the Centres de Normalització Lingüística (Linguistic Standardisation Centres) around Catalonia can also choose to take courses run partly in person, which feature individual work on the website and face-to-face sessions with tutors.
Around the world
Since it opened in 2008, some 307,000 students have signed up to parla.cat; currently an average of 73 more join per day. 245,000 of these students come from Spain, the majority of them in Catalan-speaking areas, but also, for example, Madrid, Andalusia and Murcia. The other students have registered from 170 other countries, almost every one on the planet. After Spain, the most common locations are France, then the USA, Germany and Italy.