Dual Language Immersion Program » Spanish Language History

Spanish Language History

A brief history of the Spanish Language

Spanish, like French, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, is a Romance language that evolved from Vulgar (Common) Latin. It originated on the Iberian Peninsula — the southwest corner of Europe which includes present-day Spain and Portugal. The Castilian continuation of Vulgar Latin (from Spain’s Castile region) mixed with the Arabic dialect spoken by the Moors, who conquered parts of the region, to form what became the standardized Spanish language in the 1200s. The Andalusian dialect of Spanish popped up around the same time and is still spoken in parts of southern Spain.


Where in the world is Spanish Spoken?

Spanish is the official language of the following 20 countries, as well as Puerto Rico: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Although it’s not an official language, Spanish is commonly spoken in the United States, Belize, Andorra, and Gibraltar.


How many people in the US speak Spanish?

In the United States, more than 41 million people speak Spanish as a first language (about 13% of the population), and that number continues to grow. Additionally, the U.S. is home to nearly 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers. This makes it the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world (after Mexico), but one study predicts it will be the largest by 2050.

Americans who don’t already speak Spanish are trying to learn it. Spanish is the most studied language in the U.S. In fact, 50% of American college students and more than 70% of K-12 students choose to learn Spanish — that’s significantly more than the 12% of college students and 15% of K-12 students who choose French, the second most studied language.

How many people in Latin America speak Spanish?

With 121 million native speakers, Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, but the U.S. is catching up quickly. Spanish is the official language of Mexico, in addition to many countries in Central and South America. Two of the largest Spanish speaking countries in South America are Colombia (about 46 million Spanish speakers) and Argentina (about 41 million Spanish speakers). Roughly 60% of the Latin American population speaks Spanish, followed by Portuguese (about 34%) and a small percentage of other languages, such as French, English and Mayan languages.


How many people in Europe speak Spanish?

Spain is where the Spanish language originated, so naturally, it’s the hub of Spanish speakers in Europe. But with 46 million Spanish speakers, Spain has fallen behind the U.S. to become the country with the third largest Spanish speaking population.

In Europe, Spanish is also widely spoken in Andorra and Gibraltar, but their official languages are Catalan and English, respectively. In Switzerland, about 150,000 people, or 2.2% of the population, speak Spanish as well. It’s one of 24 official languages in the European Union and is also spoken by small pockets of people in other European countries, such as Italy, Germany, France and the U.K.

How many people in the rest of the world speak Spanish?

Although the vast majority of Spanish speakers reside in the Americas and Europe, there are people who speak Spanish in other parts of the world as well. One country that stands out is the Philippines, where Spanish was an official language from the late 16th century until 1987. The Philippines were under Spanish rule from 1565-1898, but even after the end of the Spanish-American War, it remained a co-official language with English until 1987, when it was designated as an optional language. Today, approximately 3 million Filipinos speak Spanish, if you include speakers of Chavacano — a Spanish-based Creole language.

In Africa, Spanish is one of three official languages in Equatorial Guinea, where nearly 68% of the population speaks it. Spanish is also spoken in territories in northern Africa controlled by Spain, and in Morocco, which is geographically close to Spain. Finally, there are small communities of Spanish speakers in Angola and South Sudan.

Why learn Spanish?

Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world, meaning potential opportunities for Spanish learners are abundant. You can learn Spanish for travel, for work or to connect with your neighbors. Plus, it’s one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up.