Being one of the best soccer (football) players that has ever played the game, Lionel Messi is a pretty major icon around the world. Hailing from Argentina and playing the majority of his career in Barcelona, he predominantly speaks Spanish, but with him now moving to Paris St Germain, and having played with people from all over the world, what languages does Messi speak? Let’s find out.
What Languages Does Messi speak?
Messi only actually speaks two languages fluently and they might not be the languages that you think. Obviously, his first language is Spanish – it’s the language of his home, Argentina and he played in the Spanish La Liga for 16 years.
You might think that due to his recent move the other language might be French, or that because he’s on the world stage, his second language is English, but both guesses would be wrong.
In fact, the other language that Messi speaks is Catalan, a language spoken in the East of Spain that sounds like sort of a hybrid between French and Spanish.
How Many Languages Does Messi Speak Then?
So in all, Messi speaks two languages fluently: Spanish and Catalan.
Other than that, Messi does not speak any other languages fluently. While he may be able to manage some phrases or greetings in other languages for press or gameday reasons, he is not listed as speaking these languages to a native level.
Does Messi Speak English?
Despite having to deal with the worldwide press on a near daily basis, Messi does not speak English fluently and really only knows a few phrases.
Spending the majority of his life in Spanish-speaking countries, either speaking in Spanish or Catalan to Spanish language media, the need hasn’t really been there.
He even explains in this super short interview that he is learning English but doesn’t speak it:
It’s not surprising, that Spanish is the fourth most popular language in the world after English, Mandarin, and Hindi. Spanish is spoken broadly across the world and is the second language of many, including in the US, so it’s pretty easy for Messi to get by.
That and the fact that most clubs have on-staff interpreters for the players.
With teams being more and more international, you can’t be expected to learn every single language to communicate with your teammates, so you either learn the language of the club, or you can use translators to help build those bonds and explain plays.
What is Catalan?
Although as we’ve said, Catalan sounds like half French, half Spanish, it doesn’t come from either, it actually comes straight from Latin.
Catalan can be found as the primary language in a few Spanish regions, Catalonia, which includes cities like Barcelona, Girona, and Tarragona, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands including the party hub of Ibiza.
It’s also the language of the mountain country of Andorra, which straddles France and Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains. So, in actual fact, it’s spoken by quite a large proportion of Spanish and Andorran people, as the region encompasses so many major cities.
If you’ve ever been to any of these places, you’ve likely seen two languages on signage, including on public transport, one in Catalan and one in Spanish.
This is not uncommon in bilingual communities, especially where the primary language isn’t popular outside of that region.
Another example is the Welsh road signs in Wales – there is still English on them as it’s a more dominant language, but technically in a lot of Welsh counties, the Welsh language is still the first language.
Why Does Messi Speak Catalan?
Despite growing up in Rosario in Argentina, Messi left for a trial at FC Barcelona when he was just 13. Part of the agreement of him being allowed to go was that he’d stay with family nearby, who spoke Catalan.
So, from a fairly young age, Messi was exposed to the language and began to learn it fluently. Being in an area that actively spoke Catalan alongside Spanish meant that he was hearing and using it on a daily basis, so Messi quickly became fluent.
Although it may seem like a niche language, if you’re living in one of the Catalan-speaking regions, that’s going to be what you hear all the time, so it’s definitely useful to learn.
It also has a proud heritage, with the Catalonian Province voting overwhelmingly in favor of independence in 2017. You probably saw a lot about it on the news as the Spanish Government deemed the vote illegal and it led to a lot of rioting and protests all around the region.
During the height of this tension, Messi actually shared a video of his son, Matteo, singing an old traditional Catalan nursery rhyme.
As you can expect, it got a bit of a mixed response but shows that Messi ensured that his children could also speak Catalan growing up, keeping this unique and proud language alive for another generation.