Ah, the lovely island of Sardinia. Home to the Hotel Iberostar Carlos V, just outside the town of Alghero. Part of Italy. Right? Well, yes, of course. But in Europe, nothing is ever quite that simple. Sardinians certainly grow up speaking Italian just like their countrymen on the mainland. But before Mediterranean’s second largest island became part of Italy in 1861 and started speaking and teaching standard Italian, it had already had a long, complex history that left it with not one but at least three languages.

So, yo, what’s up with that? Well, Sardinia was a province of the Roman Empire, and as in other such regions, as the island’s post-Roman rule passed to Visigoths; Byzantines; local kingdoms; the Iberian kingdom of Aragon/Catalonia; then the united kingdom of Spain (the Iberostar Carlos V is in fact named after a 16th-century Spanish king), ancient Latin evolved into a Romance language, as did Italian, Spanish, and French. In this case, it was sardu (Sardinian).

For many years, Sardinian was belittled by many as a mere “dialect” of Italian, but it’s actually a distinct language, a bit Spanish-influenced, with four local dialects. Here are a few words and phrases to compare — and of course use, when you’re on-island:

Good day!   Bonas dies! (Italian buon giorno!)
How are you?   Comment’istadese? (Come sta?)
Please   Pro piàghere (Per piacere)
Thank you   Gràtzias (Grazie)
Sorry   Mi dispiaghede (Mi dispiace)
Goodbye    Adiósu (Arrivederci)

And that’s not all – in and around Alghero, quite a few locals also speak Algherese, which is a dialect of Catalan, the language of Spain’s Balearic Islands and Catalonia/Valencia regions, a remnant of a period of Catalonian rule from the 14th to 18th centuries. It’s a slight variation on what’s spoken in Spain. Here again, some key phrases:

Good day!   Bon dia!
How are you?   Com està vostè?
Please   Per plaier
Thank you   Gràcies
Sorry   Me desplau
Goodbye   A mos veure

Today, both Sardinian and Catalan are still spoken by a significant chunk of Sardinia’s population, but sadly are somewhat in decline due to the aging population and because Italian is more practical economically and culturally. But for now at least, they’re still very much around, and a fascinating part of the local cultural fabric.

Photo | Lucia Cantone/iStockphoto

Curious to hear Sardinian spoken in person? Check out the deals at our local Iberostar resort!