Catalan is one of the four languages of Spain (together with Castilian, Euskera and Galician). It is the national and official language of Andorra and co-official language of Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. It is also spoken without official recognition in Southern France, in Aragon (in La Franja) and in the Italian island of Sardinia (in the city of Alghero). About 10 million people speak Catalan in Spain and about 10 million more in the rest of the world.
The presence of Catalan instruction at UMass offers an oportunity to reflect upon the multiculturalism of Spain. Spain is not one, but multiple, and Catalan is an important aspect of its culture. Even for students who focus exclusively on improving their competence in Spanish, a first-hand encounter with a non-Castilian culture enhances their understanding of Spanish society and history.
Furthermore, Catalan is an important tool for students who are specializing in Romance literatures. In the Middle Ages, Catalan was a closely related to Occitan; the vehicle for the poetry of the troubadours. To students of Hispanic linguistics the knowledge of another Iberian language allows them to undertake research projects that compare and contrast different structures of those languages.