If you’ve any doubts: Yes, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. While Chinese (Mandarin) has more native speakers than any other language, there are more people who speak Spanish as their first language than those whose mother tongue is English.
Why is it so widely spoken? How did it become the world’s second language in terms of countries where it’s the official language? How did this language that came from Latin end up being so popular over the years?
As you can see, it’s also growing in popularity in the US. Why should you learn Spanish? Since the history of Spanish and why it’s so widely spoken is a fascinating tale, let’s have a look at the reasons why together.
There are a number of reasons why languages spread. Sometimes people migrate and take their languages, cultures, and customs with them. However, this isn’t usually a phenomenon that leads a language to spread to every corner of the globe.
Throughout history, a number of languages have been spread through religions. Latin, for example, was spoken across Europe when it was used for Catholic masses. There are also a lot of countries that speak Arabic thanks to it being the language of Islam and the Quran.
A language also spreads when its used in a particular field. Italian was used as the language of music since most of the great composers were writing in it. French was popular as the language of science for a while, too.
When it comes to business and tourism, English is commonly used all over the world as a de facto language. This is why most people around the world learn it as their second language.
A language can also be forced upon a group of people through conquest. When an area is invaded, the new leaders will impose their language on their new subjects.
So how did Spanish end up how it is today and spoken in so many places around the world? This is a question that both historians and linguists have been interested in answering over the centuries. To answer this question, of all the reasons mentioned before, we could simplify them down to word of mouth. You could say that languages are spread by people talking to one another.
If you want to delve even further, you could say there were two ways the Spanish language spread: through conquest and writing. War and culture. Territorial and literary expansion.
These are the two things which the Spanish have excelled in over the years. Put simply, this is why so many people around the world speak Spanish. However, let’s have a look back.
Spanish is even spoken in some of the most remote parts of South America. (Source: pixabay.com)
The Spanish language, which is derived from Latin, came about some time between the 8th and 9th centuries. Let’s have a look at some of the events over the years that formed the language, its grammar, conjugations, and vocabulary.
We’ll start with a period of time that goes from the end of the Reconquista (when Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castile took the Iberian peninsula back from the Muslims) to Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers’ expeditions to the New World. It was during the 16th century that the Spanish empire expanded across the world to places such as:
Peru (Viceroyalty of Peru)
Mexico and many places in Central America (a region which was known as New Spain)
The Viceroyalty of New Granada: Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago
Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata: Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and parts of Chile and Brazil
Guam, the Mariana Islands, and the Caroline Islands.
This was the Golden Age for Spanish.
In 1714, the Borbons made Spanish the country’s only language. Between 1726 and 1739, Spanish dictionaries were edited and published around the Spanish-speaking world. Local populations also helped to create creoles and spread the Spanish language and after various wars of independence, Spanish was spoken across most of the Americas by the 19th century.
Spanish also spread to Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries in places such as Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara.
Finally, Spanish culture also helped the Spanish language become one of the most spoken in the world. There are plenty of famous Spanish speakers including: El Greco, Francisco Goya, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, and Antoni Gaudi. Music (flamenco, salsa, reggaeton, bachata, etc.), cinema (Almodovar, Bunuel), and sport (football in particular with teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona) have all also helped contribute to Spanish’s popularity in the modern era.
As you know, Spanish as we know it today, is the official language of Spain where it’s known as “Castillian” (Castellano). Catalan, Basque, and Galician are also official languages in various regions in Spain.
Castillian Spanish has its own vocabulary, expressions, accent, conjugations, and pronunciation, and grammar. This is all thanks to the history it shares with Spain as a country.
However, learning all this can be done quite easily in the modern age. You’ll quickly see how many English words (over half our vocabulary comes from Latin or French) have a lot in common with Spanish words.
There are also lots of different ways to learn Spanish including: free online Spanish classes, studying Spanish at college, and Spanish language exchange programs, for example. Beginners can take classes during the summer or at night and students can study Spanish during their time at college.
There are 1,175,000,000 people who speak Spanish around the world. (Source: skitterphoto.com)
Put simply, it is quite easy to learn Spanish nowadays in Spanish classes or in a country where Spanish is spoken. After all, Spanish is the second most popular language in the world!
Mandarin Chinese is the most popular with 1.35 billion speakers whereas Spanish has 1.175 billion speakers: 425 million speak the language as their mother tongue, 400 million as their second language, and 350 million people speak it as a foreign language. Not bad!
It’s worth noting that Spanish is spoken in around 20 different countries as an official language whereas Mandarin is only spoken in 4. English, French, and Arabic are the only other language to be so widely spread around the world.
As we said earlier, the Spanish language spread through culture and conquest. These are probably the two most powerful ways to do it. You’ll probably learn more about this in your Spanish courses.
The US, the country with the most powerful culture, is currently undergoing a unique linguistic (and demographic) transformation.
While English is the most common language in the US, it is looking likely that Spanish will overtake it in the next few decades.
According to recent studies, there are around 41 million Spanish speakers in the US at the moment and 12 million bilingual Americans. Spanish speakers are mainly found in states like Florida, Texas, and California. Spanish is basically America’s second language.
Florida is home to a lot of Spanish speakers. (Source: Elvis Vasquez)
In terms of Spanish speakers, the USA is home to the second largest number of any country in the world. It’s just behind Mexico and ahead of Spain.
Experts believe that by the 2050, there will be between 102 and 138 million Spanish speakers in the country. This would make the USA home to more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world.
There aren’t really any other examples of a language spreading like this anywhere else in the world. Proof that speaking Spanish is essential nowadays.
Learning Spanish can also be done in school. It’s the most popular foreign language being taught in the US at the moment. It’s also taught in many other places around the world. Spanish language courses are also very popular in many other English-speaking countries.
From elementary education to high school, most students will have to learn some Spanish grammar and vocabulary during their time at school. Many will even study Don Quijote. So are there plenty of bilinguals because of this? Not really. This does mean, however, that you’ll have more opportunities to do exchange programs in Latin America or in Spain.
You should pay more attention in your Spanish classes. (Source: pixabay.com)
Spanish at high school is rarely enough to speak Spanish fluently. Outside of school, you can learn Spanish in a number of different ways:
In a language school
In a Spanish school
Spanish classes in Spain or another Spanish-speaking country
Spanish classes online
The Internet is also helping Spanish to spread around the world. In addition, to Spanish-speaking culture is spread through cinema, art, and music, we can’t forget that there are a lot of Spanish websites and YouTube videos, too!
Thanks to these sites and resources, it’s not very easy to access Spanish lessons and materials online. In fact, it’s never been easier to learn Spanish.