Catalan is closer to French & Italian than Spanish is.Actually, I never claimed that Catalan and Castelan are the same, just similar and that Rafa went to school in Castelan.
I jokingly (and somewhat bitterly, for reasons other the you/Rafa) suggested that Serbo-Croatian dialects are forced into separate languages by politicians.
Interesting percentage with Italian and French, I'd never thought it would be that colse... Mind you, even with my very poor French, I can do very basic communication in "made up Italian". When we were there, 2 years ago, my kid asked me how come I spoke Italian
Anyhow, I always found Spanish and Italian more resambling each other than French...
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Rafa has said that Catalan and French are quite similar and he understands French if people are speaking slowly:
And Rafa is able to give interviews in Italian. In this video, Rafa is interviwed by Adriano Panatta, the winner of Roland Garros 1976, in Italian in May 2015: