How Widespread Is Spanish Around the World?
Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Spain is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Spanish language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, Spanish is a widely used language around the world found in many countries, and its use continues to grow.
Where Spanish Is Spoken
When determining where in the world Spanish is spoken, it’s clear to say that this language has speakers in every country imaginable. Many people think the Spanish spoken all over the world is the same, but that’s not the case. Spanish is one of the “Romance languages”, having evolved from Vulgar Latin.
When comparing the history of the language with today’s many varied versions, it is interesting to see how the language has changed. Originating in the Iberian Peninsula, today’s Spanish varies from country to country. In the 1200s, Castilian’s Latin was combined with the Moors’ Arabic dialect to form the standard Spanish language of the day. After this, people in the south of Spain began using the Andalusian dialect to speak Spanish.
While Spanish is spoken all over the world, it is only seen as the primary language in certain places. Spanish is currently recognized as the official language in 20 countries: Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Spain, Venezuela, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Equatorial Guinea, Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. It is also a primary language in Puerto Rico. Over 400 million people around the world today are native Spanish speakers—second only to Chinese as one of the world’s most spoken languages. Around 9 million people have Spanish as their second language.
The Importance of Speaking Spanish
Students in Spain and Latin America are typically taught English at some point in their education. Oftentimes, children in these countries grow up knowing, at the least, relatively conversational English. Many of the Spanish speakers in these countries also have spent some time in the US as well—often making them more fluent. However, because they are not predominately taught in the English language, many Spaniards and Latin Americans do not speak English fluently.
This is why it is important for English speakers traveling anywhere in Spain or Latin America to be familiar with Spanish or common Spanish phrases. On your visit, you will find that communicating with the locals and understanding signs will be a lot easier when you know basic phrases like, “Hello!” and “Where is the bathroom?” Not being able to understand, read, or speak any Spanish at all will prevent you from having the best experience on your trip to Spain or Latin America.
Depending on the length of your trip, it may be a good idea to enroll in some Spanish classes before or after your arrival. These types of classes offer students a cursory education in the basics of the Spanish language that will help you navigate around when you begin your trip. These courses are often a few weeks to a few months and can help students become fluent in the Spanish language in a short period of time. Whether you go to classes in person or online, taking the time to properly learn how to understand and speak Spanish will make your next trip that much more rewarding
Variations of Spanish
Spanish is one of the world’s most spoken languages, no matter what part of the world you are in. However, wherever you are in the world does determine the type of Spanish that is spoken there. Many people wrongly assume that Spanish is Mexico’s official language, but believe it or not, Mexico does not actually have an official language. Of the 68 other languages, the Mexican constitution recognizes, Spanish is the first language of 95% of all Mexico’s citizens, but not the country’s chosen primary language. Similarly, Spanish is the primary language of choice for government officials, as well as for the many indigenous groups in Mexico.
When considering Spanish as an official language in Spain, the language of choice is actually a varied type of Spanish. Throughout Spain, as well as other portions of Latin America, the people speak “castellano”—a particular form of Spanish, originally spoken in Castile, Spain. Most people note that speakers of Castellano have a “singsong accent” as well as with clearer diction, rather than speaking with a lisp. When compared to the Spanish spoken in Spain with the type of Spanish spoken by Latin American countries, one will notice that certain words are distinctly different. The words of Castellano Spanish are more closely tied to the indigenous languages of the Purepecha, Mayan, and Nahuatl.
Each type of Spanish varies depending on the people that speak it and where it is spoken. For individuals interested in visiting a specific country in Latin American, it is best to practice the type of Spanish that is commonly spoken in that country.
Spanish as an Economic Necessity
As native Spanish speakers and bilingual Spanish speakers live all over the world, Spanish is a large part of the global economy as a whole. Internationally, Spanish is the second most spoken language throughout the world. When it comes to the media, it is the third most printed language in television, radio, paper, and on the Internet.
As a vast majority of these Spanish speakers make up a large part of the global economy, the interests of this demographic are being recognized on a larger scale. When ranked against other nations, Spain has the 13th highest GDP in the word, allotting the country a large amount of buying power.
When it comes to Spanish speakers in Latin America (as well as the more than 530 million global citizens identify as Spanish speakers), it is important to realize the true economic influence they have on their government, economy, and the world. This is what makes the Latin American and Spanish market impossible to ignore. Regardless of what part of the world you are in, there will be a voice advocating for the rights and interests of the Spanish people. More and more companies and governments are beginning to realize this and have since made huge efforts to consider this market as they promote their products.
Make the Effort to Learn the Language before Going
The language barrier is the biggest obstacles that visitors headed to Latin America must overcome to have a smooth trip or transition to their new lives. Lack of conversational Spanish can ruin chances of making new friends or give a wrong impression to Latin American locals. A night out can turn out to be awkward if one gets stuck to set phrases, desperate miming or resorting to using mobile translation applications. Latin Americans are ever hospitable and may not hesitate to include a Spanish non-speaker in all their events and try to translate the events, but it is always harder to have chemistry with people if one does not share their language.
Therefore, anyone planning to visit any Latin American country should invest a considerable amount of time taking Spanish classes before they visit. The classes boost one’s confidence, as well as providing new vocabulary and feedback on language delivery. Furthermore, classes are great platforms that allow one to make new friends in Spanish and the teacher can always fill the learner in on the Latin American culture, the best eateries, as well as favorite places to hang out in Latin America.
Upon landing in a Latin American country, such as Mexico, finding one’s way around becomes easier for visitors who speaks Spanish as the they can ask for directions and get recommendations on many other things. As stated above, language barrier presents the biggest challenge when it comes to making new friends and interacting with the locals. However, by taking language classes long before making a trip to Latin America, living in the region becomes a lot easier.