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The Spanish Language

The Spanish Language
on March 24, 2017

Modern Spanish language belongs to the Ibero-Romance family of languages and has nearly a half billion speakers around the world. A significant portion of people also speak or study Spanish as a second language, and if you’re reading this right now, you just might be one of them. Spanish is spoken in 23 countries, including: Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain Uruguay, the United States of America and Venezuela.

Modern Spanish language is thought to have emerged in the 5th century, following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and grew out of different dialects of Vulgar Latin from the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish as we know it today began to formalize as a literary language around the 9th or 10th century and spread to the New World through colonialism by the 16th century. From there, Spanish soon took root across large parts of the Americas and has even spread to parts of Africa and the Philippines. 

Roughly three quarters of modern Spanish comes from Latin, with moderate contributions from Greek. This helps to explain why there is so much overlap in vocabulary between English and Spanish, despite the fact that they come from different branches of language families. (If you’re interested in shared vocabulary between English and Spanish, you can check out this post on cognates.)

Spanish language speakers refer to their native language as español (Spanish), but be careful. The Spanish spoken in Spain is slightly different from Spanish spoken in Latin America, and the Spanish spoken in Spain is referred to as Castilian Spanish.

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