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What Countries Speak Spanish?
When you consider the fact that Spanish has the second largest number of speakers around the world, you’re probably wondering then:
What countries & continents speak Spanish?
From Asia to the Americas, there are many places in the world that speak Spanish with over 500 million speakers total, worldwide. And that’s pretty impressive. Simply put, if you can speak, read or understand Spanish, you’re already ahead of the game both personally and professionally, since Spanish is a global language.
However, the history of Spanish is a complex one as Spanish didn’t always naturally develop as the language of choice for these millions of people. In reality, the tongue’s use is the product of centuries of history, the majority of which concerns turbulent periods of migration and colonization.
Where Do People Speak Spanish?
From Spanish-speaking countries in Africa to Spanish-speaking countries in Asia, the number of Spanish speakers across the world is growing. According to the Pew Research Centre, in the US alone, the number of speakers has grown by an enormous 233% since 1980, and looking globally, the Cervantes Institute predicts that the population in officially Spanish-speaking nations is predicted to reach 750 million by 2050.
That, of course, is discounting the countless hundreds of millions worldwide who have picked up–or are in the process of picking up Spanish as an additional tongue. Out of all the languages in the world, Spanish is the third most studied language, ranking right after English and French. So, whether for personal reasons or business, many people are inspired to learn Spanish, and Rosetta Stone has taught millions of people with our ten-minute, bite-sized lessons that help people go out into the world speaking conversational Spanish confidently.
Which Country or Continent Is Home to the Most Spanish Language Speakers?
Today, the Americas take that claim as being home to the most Spanish language speakers in the world. Here are some facts:
- Mexico has the most speakers with 110 million
- Colombia is second in line
- The USA is tied with Argentina at about 41 million
- Next, comes Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Cuba
- The Americas are home to around 470 million Spanish speakers.
And as we speak, many more people are intrigued by the idea of learning Spanish and what it can do for them while traveling, working, or just living life. With our Dynamic Immersion® method, Rosetta Stone teaches new words and phrases based on the context in which they’re used, so you’ll be ready to have a real conversation with other Spanish speakers that doesn’t sound like a textbook script. Ultimately, our goal is to get you to speak with confidence and learn Spanish the best way that suits your personality, whether you’re studying common phrases, reading interesting stories, or talking to our native-speaking tutors.
How Many Countries Speak Spanish?
If your next question is, “How many countries speak Spanish?” we can tell you that 20 countries count Spanish as the official language.
Here is the official list:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
Although it’s not an official language, Spanish is commonly spoken in the United States, Belize, Andorra and Gibraltar. We’ll dive into how the Spanish language developed in continents like:
- The Americas
A Brief History of the Spanish Language
The region with the least Spanish speakers, Asia has hosted the Spanish language since the sixteenth century, when Spanish explorers colonized the Philippines and set about imposing their rule and spreading Christianity. Here, Spanish was spoken primarily by the elite – businesspeople, intellectuals, missionaries and the local court. But despite the populace being educated in Spanish throughout the nineteenth century, and Spanish being the location’s main tongue until the mid-twentieth century, American control of the islands and nationalist sentiments served to drastically reduce the number of Spanish speakers in the Philippines. Briefly in 1973, then finally in 1987, Spanish lost its title as the Philippines’ official language.
Today, the language is enjoying something of a renaissance in the country, and the various Philippine languages borrow a proportion of their vocabulary from Spanish – Tagalog, for instance, has been shown to contain between 20% and 33% words of Spanish origin. What’s more, Chavacano – spoken by 700,000 people – is a common creole tongue that’s largely based on Spanish.
While there aren’t many Spanish-speaking countries across Africa – there is just one–the continent was only truly opened up to Europeans after anti-malarial treatments were developed in the nineteenth century, long after the height of Spanish colonization – Spanish speakers can flex their linguistic muscles in Equatorial Guinea.
Located on the western coast of the continent, Spanish, Portuguese and French are the official languages, thanks to the 1778 ceding of the territory from Portugal to Spain, the latter of which relinquished control of Equatorial Guinea in 1968.
Equatoguinean Spanish is similar to that spoken in Spain and Latin America. Although, owing to both the country’s inherent geographical isolation, and forced political isolation between 1968 and 1979 during to the dictatorship of Francisco Macías Nguema – known as one of the most brutal dictators in African history – the language has developed in a truly interesting, independent way.
Influenced over the centuries by local tribal languages, Equatoguinean Spanish is spoken by some 68% of the country, yet the language contains a large number of dialects and accents, many of which are drawn along tribal or ethnic lines. The influence of French, Portuguese and German is also apparent – the French “R” is used by some speakers, for example.
The Spanish language’s home, Spain, only developed the language known today in the Middle Ages – prior to this, Latin had been the primary tongue spoken, due to the influence of Roman rule. During this time, the various kingdoms of Spain, moving south in order to rid the peninsula of Moorish Arabs, developed a variety of Latin dialects.
The kingdom of Castile, once a minor kingdom, grew to prominence on the back of the Reconquista, and the dialect spoken – Castilian – became the language of the administration, culture and history as King Alfonso X began the process of standardizing the language of his realm.
In 1492, when the Reconquista was completed, Castilian was named as the official dialect of Spain, and became one of the first European languages to have an officially-defined system of grammar. Unlike most European languages though, Spanish was influenced greatly by Arabic, and today thousands of words can trace their origins to the centuries of Islamic rule.
Today, Spanish is spoken in the European countries of Portugal and Andorra, and by a large number of people in the British territory of Gibraltar, mainly thanks to the proximity of both countries to Spain.
When Christopher Columbus reached the Americas in 1492, the continents of North and South America were first introduced to the Spanish Language. With religious conversion as the goal, the Catholic Church was invested in having the natives learn Spanish.
As the children taught in the institutions reached adulthood, Spanish was cemented as the primary language, but the influence of local tribal languages meant that the Latin American version of Spanish differed from Castilian at the local level. The Andalusian origin of the first explorers influenced the pronunciation patterns in Latin America from the outset. And in fact, 11 million people in Latin America still speak their indigenous languages.
As you can see, with such a rich history and a future that looks “linguistically bright,” learning Spanish can not only be a rewarding personal experience for you, but also a smart move professionally as the language becomes more popular by the day. Experience the fun when you learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone. Try our hands-on interactive demo and see what makes Rosetta Stone the most award-winning language-learning program.
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