Language is the primary vehicle for expressing ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It is the building block of culture and defines a community of people. Since the beginning of time, language has been part of every person’s social identity. Through many centuries of human existence, some languages became more widespread than others. The Spanish language, among others, is statistically the second most spoken native language around the world. More people speak Spanish natively than English, and it is the official language in 21 countries.
The numbers are also astounding. There are approximately 470 million people who speak Spanish as their native language, and around 560 million more who use Spanish as their second or first language. In the United States, learning Spanish as a second language is the most popular choice, with French at second place.
There are many international organizations that recognize Spanish as an official language. Some of these include the European Union, FIFA, the World Trade Organization, and the Organization of American States.
Countries with Spanish as the Official Language
Spanish is said to have originated from the Castile region of Spain. It, therefore, makes sense that whenever you think about the Spanish language, an immediate association would be the country of Spain. But when it comes to the largest population speaking the Spanish language officially, Mexico takes the top spot with 113 million native speakers. You might think, perhaps Spain takes the second spot?
On the contrary, Colombia has the second largest population of native Spanish speakers at 47 million. Spain is only at third with 40 million native speakers, tied with Argentina. In total, 21 countries speak Spanish as the official language, and most of these countries are in Latin America.
How Spanish Spread and Developed to be One of the Most Prominent Languages Used Around the World
The Spanish language has roots in ancient Latin. When the Roman Empire crumbled, Spanish slowly evolved from spoken Latin and emerged from the Iberian Peninsula. During that time, only the northern and central regions of Spain used the language. But between the 13th and 16th centuries, a standardized written form of the language came about in Madrid and Toledo, which eventually spread throughout the south and around the entire country. The 16th century was a productive time for Spanish colonizers. When these conquistadors reached South America, they not only conquered many countries but left Spanish as a continuing legacy as well. The Spanish Empire stretched out to the Pacific Islands of the Philippines and Guam, but the Spanish language only left traces of its influence and is barely spoken in both of these old Spanish colonies.
Later on, in the 19th century, countries colonized by Spain eventually gained independence. Many of these countries recognized Spanish as the official language to ensure unity. During that time, immigration also became widespread and European immigrants who came to Spanish speaking countries also learned Spanish to assimilate with the locals.
In the United States, the first wave of Spanish speaking immigrants came from Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War. Along with immigrant from Mexico, the Spanish language continued widespread adoption in the country. With the number of people who speak Spanish in the U.S., it is the unofficial second language and is increasingly becoming acceptable for official documents and in some areas of politics.
But what do you really know about the Spanish language aside from these historical and statistical facts? Here are some fun trivia you may or may not have encountered already. Can you check how many of these are familiar to you?
Discover INTERESTING Facts
about the Spanish language
The Spanish language is multi-faceted and steeped with cultural significance. But more than that, there are a few things about the language itself which may surprise you.
1. The United States is heading towards being the most prominent Spanish speaking nation by 2050. There is a continuous growth in Spanish speakers in the U.S., and at the rate, there will be approximately 132.8 million Spanish speakers by 2050. With this fact alone, learning Spanish is becoming a necessity for a lot of people. This brings us to the second fact:
2. Spanish teachers in the U.S. could earn up to $125/hour. People who want to learn Spanish desire to master the language as an additional skill set which gives them an edge in the workplace. Aside from this, teaching Spanish is not the only lucrative opportunity for native speakers. You can get high-paying jobs as a translator, too.
3. Spanish is a very descriptive language. Spanish is known for longer and expressive sentences. If you translate English text into Spanish, the result is likely going to increase by at least 15%. Another reason for this is because certain English words don’t have direct Spanish translations. One example is the word “commuter” which there’s no such equivalent word in Spanish. It’ll be translated, literally, as “una persona que viaja al trabajo todos los días”.
4. Spanish is the language of romance. Perhaps this no longer comes as a surprise to anyone because the Spanish language is often associated with passion in popular culture. But the reason behind this is more meaningful and historical. In language classifications, Spanish falls under the same category as other Indo-European languages like French, Russian, and English. Furthermore, Spanish is also akin to other Romantic languages like Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.
5. Spanish is a highly phonetic language. Phonetic languages mean that you pronounce every single letter as you see it. Phonetic languages are definitely easier to learn because there are very few exceptions, in terms of pronunciation, and the words are a lot more straightforward to pronounce, to spell and to understand.
More fun and interesting examples of Spanish words and expressions that are best learned as they are and not by translation.
6. Like other languages, Spanish also has regional characteristics. Because Spanish spread through colonization, there are a lot of nuances between Spanish as spoken in mainland Spain and Spanish as used in Latin America. Some of these countries adopted unique words, vocabulary, slangs, and even accents.
7. The Royal Spanish Academy regulates Spanish. There is no other language except Spanish where a custodian is keeping its integrity. Real Academia Española, The Royal Spanish Academy, oversees many language academies in all the countries where Spanish is the official language and does this through the Association of Spanish Language Academies.
8. There is an increasing demand to learn Spanish. Since Spanish is the second most widely spoken language around the world, it also follows that there is an ongoing demand to learn it. Along with English and Mandarin, Spanish is also the third most popular language used on the Internet. With the current rate and continuous increase in the demand to learn Spanish, 10% of the world’s total population will speak and understand Spanish after three generations from now.
9. You can achieve Spanish professional proficiency in 24 weeks. Although learning Spanish is subjective to a person’s attitude and dedication, experts say that attaining professional proficiency is possible in 24 weeks. What this means is being able to use the language in a professional manner, beyond conversational and essential writing ability.
10. The Spanish language has some Arabic influences. During the year 711 AD, Arabs conquered the Iberian Peninsula bringing their culture to the country. This cultural amalgamation also meant the Arabic language combined with the earliest form of the Spanish language. By the time the Arabs left Spain, around 8,000 Arabic words remained incorporated into the language.
Aside from these facts, the Spanish grammar is also equally fascinating. For example, exclamatory and interrogative sentences open with an exclamation point or question mark. There are no other languages which use the same format. Another example is that the Spanish language has a total of 17 tenses, and nouns which have the same spelling change meanings upon assigning a different grammatical gender.
These facts further confirm the historical significance and current importance of the Spanish language in today’s society. Anyone can learn Spanish and reap the benefits of a second language which will open the avenue to experience a culture which spans across several continents and beautifully diverse countries.
Sean Hopwood, MBA is founder and President of Day Translations, an online translation and localization services provider, dedicated to the improvement of global communications. You can visit their website if you need Government translation services.
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