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The Spanish Language Situation

Spanish in the World

The Spanish language situation in the world. Currently more than 400 million people in the world today who speak Spanish as a first language.

The expansion of speakers in the world who benefit from speaking Spanish can be attributed to various factors. During the 1980's, Spain joined international organizations like NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union, and the Spanish language was only studied by academics who were dedicated to the detailed study of a language and its literature. However, this all changed after Spain became a member of these international organizations as well as the surge in importance Spanish-speaking countries especially those in Latin America.

Today, there are more than 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world according to the latest numbers offered by the Instituto Cervantes and this growth is not slowing down. In 2012, 495 million people spoke Spanish as their first language. This means that Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. According to the report issued by the Instituto Cervantes El Español en el Mundo in 2012, it states that in 2030 7.5% of the world's population will speak Spanish. This means that more than 535 million people will be native Spanish speakers. Curiously, this report also states that the United States, in 2050, will be the largest Spanish speaking country in the world.

In order for the readers to get an idea of what all of this means, the Summer Institute of Linguistics pointed out in 1986 that the number of Spanish speakers in Mexico was 86,211,000. They calculated that in the year 2001, the number would be 101,000,000. In 1986, Spain was had 28,173,000 people; and today, Spain's population exceeds the 44,000,000. Given this information, we can only think that the number of Spanish speakers is increasing every day.

In the majority of Spanish-speaking countries there are also other languages that are spoken. In Latin America, for example, there's Mayan, Guaraní, Aymará, and Quechua. But Spanish continues its process of expansion among the speakers of these indigenous languages often due to its condition as the official language and the national language of these countries.

In the case of Africa, there is the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Here, Spanish is the language used for trading between among the different people and their different native languages that coexist within its territories.  Part of Morocco, or the Western Sahara, used to be a Spanish protectorate, that today has about 20,000 Spanish speakers in its territory.

In Asia there are about 3,000 people who consider Spanish their mother tongue. The Philippines maintain the Spanish language as a cultural reference since their first written texts are in this language. An attempt has been made on the part of the authorities as well as the country's residents, to recuperate and preserve this valued part of their cultural history. Because of this, the number of students who choose Spanish as a second language has increased immensely over the last few years.

According to previously mentioned report, today there are more than 18 million students studying Spanish around the world. The countries with the most students learning the language that Cervantes made great are the United States, Brazil and France.

It is calculated that the United States has about 50,000,000 Spanish speakers. The increase of Spanish speakers can be based mostly upon the recent wave of Spanish speaking immigrants, and the need of the 3rd U.S. born generation of Hispanic immigrants wanting to recover their almost forgotten mother tongue. This has placed the country second after Mexico and ahead of Spain in numbers of Spanish speakers in its population.

Jean-Louis Calvet (Jean-Louis Calvet, Pour une écologie des langues du mond, Plon, París, 1999) has applied names to three groups of Spanish Speakers:

With all of this, the future looks promising for the Spanish language. Everyone dedicated to the teaching and diffusion of Spanish hopes that this last group continues to grow and make Spanish the second most studied language in the world.