Omi - do you speak Spanish at all?
What I learned about Catalan:
I have a brother that speaks fluent French and mediocre Spanish and in Spain (outside Barc of course) people would speak in Catalan, and to him, it sounded like "gibberish" but he could make certain things out. He had difficulty with a lot of things though, even though he's a very linguistic person.
My sister in law, on the other hand, who is Mexican and grew up with Spanish as a regular language, says different. She says Catalan is pretty much just a dialect of Spanish and that the words are very similar, just "written with an accent." She also got an edu degree in teaching Spanish, so I really trust what she says.
I speak none of the above languages, but comparing both, I believe my sister in law.