Spanish national language: Official Languages of Spain — Languages in Spain
Spanish Speaking Countries | Rosetta Stone®
What Countries Speak Spanish?
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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
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
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
- 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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The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.
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Here Are 21 Countries Where Spanish Is An Official Language
If you’re learning Spanish to travel to a Spanish speaking country, here’s a bit of good news. There are 21 countries in which Spanish is the official language.
So, if you want to use those crucial Spanish language skills you’ve gained from your Spanish courses to communicate with Spanish speakers in the area, this means you can take your pick — there are so many countries to choose from.
But in which countries is Spanish the official language?
And how many Spanish speakers are there in each country?
You’ll find all the info you need right here. Read on.
Table of Contents:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- El Salvador
- Puerto Rico
How many people across the globe speak Spanish?
Worldwide, 543 million people speak Spanish.
This means there are only three languages that have more speakers worldwide than Spanish — these languages are English (1,348 million speakers), Mandarin (1,120 million speakers) and Hindi (600 million speakers).
Of the 543 million global Spanish speakers, more than 41 million speak Spanish in the United States, according to Statista.
Facts about the Spanish language you should know
Here are three facts you should know about the Spanish language.
Spanish is a Romance language
Spanish is one of the Romance languages, of which there are five main types.
The five main Romance languages are (French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish), but there are 44 types in total.
By the way, by ‘Romance’, I don’t mean that it sounds romantic. Well, it might do.
But, instead, the term Romance refers to the fact that the Spanish language is derived from the Roman (Latin) language.
Spanish has several dialects
The Spanish language has a range of dialects spoken by Spanish speakers in various locations.
As well as Andalusian Spanish, for example (which is spoken in Andalusia), there are such dialects as Canarian Spanish (spoken in las Islas Canarias), Colombian Spanish (spoken in Colombia) and Puerto Rican Spanish (spoken in Puerto Rico).
There are also many more variations all across the globe, which we have covered further down in this article.
español) is known as Castellano
Our last fact about the Spanish language (or español) is that it is also referred to as Castilian (or Castellano).
The reason for this is that the language originated in the central European Spanish zone known as Castile.
21 countries in which Spanish is the official language
Now we’ve covered a few statistics on the Spanish language, it’s time to turn our attention to those 21 Hispanic countries where Spanish is the official language. Here we go!
Native Spanish speakers: 40 million
Non-native Spanish speakers: 1 million
Argentina has retained the heavy influence of European customs following its 300-year colonisation by the Spanish. They declared independence in 1816, but cultural aspects such as the Spanish language have remained.
One interesting fact about the Argentine language is that, as well as the Spanish language, it has been influenced by Italian as well.
You’ll notice that each Argentinian zone has its distinct accent, such as the porteño accent of Buenos Aires.
Native Spanish speakers: 6 million (68%)
The Bolivian culture is rich and diverse. 20% of the country’s population is made up of indigenous people, Aymara and Quechua included. In addition to Spanish, there are 36 recognised indigenous languages in Bolivia.
The principal official language of Bolivia, however, is Spanish, which was brought to Bolivia in the 16th century when the Spanish colonised the country.
Native Spanish speakers: 18 million
Following the colonisation of Chile in the mid-16th century, the country has adopted a range of Spanish cultural aspects. Chile’s official language, for instance, is Spanish, but there is a significant blend of Spanish and indigenous culture too.
The Chilean dialect differs greatly from that of the European Spanish. It features different grammatical rules and colloquial terms that European Spaniards sometimes find challenging to understand.
Native Spanish speakers: 47 million
The Columbian culture shares some similarities to many of the colonised Latin American countries. The cultural customs, for instance, are influenced by European Spanish cultural norms and beliefs — including the rate of Roman Catholicism and the language.
Upwards of 99% of people in Colombia speak Spanish. Other languages that are also spoken in Colombia include Creole, Romani and Creole.
Native Spanish speakers: 4 million
In the 16th century, Costa Rica was colonised by Spain. The country’s name, given to it by Christopher Columbus translates to the ‘rich coast’, with costa meaning ‘coast’ and rica meaning rich in Spanish.
Other languages spoken in Costa Rica include Maléku and Cabécar, but very few inhabitants speak these particular languages.
The main religion in Costa Rica is Catholicism, which is another way that Spanish beliefs have influenced the country. Approximately 50% of Costa Ricans are Catholic.
Native Spanish speakers: 11 million
Bringing together the influences of Spanish culture and African customs, Cuba has a unique and wide-ranging culture. It was after Diego Velazquez began the colonisation of Cuba in 1511 (then known as Juana) that the country began to take on some of these customs.
The official language of Cuba, for instance, is Spanish, with 90% of Cubans speaking the language.
Native Spanish speakers: 9 million
As well as the indigenous Taíno language and culture, the Dominican Republic is also home to European Spanish and African cultural elements. The country has been influenced by European Spanish culture in terms of its language and traditions.
As a result of the Spanish settlement, for instance, Spanish has become the Dominican Republic’s official language. Also notable is the fact that there is a range of accents in the Dominican Republic, all similar to both Andalusia and the Canary Islands.
Native Spanish speakers: 14 million
The Ecuadorian culture has taken on and adopted much of the Spanish culture and heritage. As with the other countries on this list, Spanish is widely spoken in Ecuador, with 90% of the population speaking Spanish as their first language.
The indigenous population also speak languages such as Kichwa Shaur and Wao.
The country has a wide range of cultural events and religious customs, which include Holy Week and Carnaval — both of which are also celebrated in Spain.
Spanish speakers: 737,000
Spanish is the second language of practically all of the 737,000 Spanish speakers in Equatorial Guinea.
There are several grammatical differences between European Spanish and the Spanish spoken in Equatorial Guinea. For instance, tú and usted are often used alongside each other. In other words, there is not the same distinction between tú and usted as there is in Spain.
Spanish, however, has been one of Equatorial Guinea’s official languages since 1844, and 67.6% of the population speak it.
Native Spanish speakers: 6 million
In El Salvador, you’ll find that there is a range of languages. These languages include Lencan and Mayan, as well as Pipil.
But these languages are spoken by a small minority, (with less than one per cent of the population speaking Pilpil, for example). Central American Spanish is the dominant language in El Salvador.
The country has absorbed Native American, Mestizo, Latin American and Spanish cultures, which run throughout various ways of life in El Salvador. Most notably, 75% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, which has influenced El Salvadorian culture from the colonial period.
Native Spanish speakers: 10 million
The Guatemalans speak a variation of Spanish known as Guatemalan Spanish, or español guatemalteco. 93% of the population speaks Spanish, but there are also other languages spoken in rural regions of the country as well.
One example of this is the Mayan language, and another is the Garifuna language. The 2003 Language law in Guatemala declared these and other languages national languages, but there are also other languages spoken in Guatemala.
As well as German and French, you will also find Chinese and English speakers in Guatemala.
Native Spanish speakers: 8 million native speakers
Of the 9 million Hondurans, Spanish is spoken by 8 million native speakers in Honduras. Hondurans speak a Spanish variant known as Honduran Spanish.
One interesting point about Honduran Spanish is that various slang terms might not be recognisable to European Spaniards. Some of these words include maje (dude) and bululo (bread).
The language was adopted during colonial times as was Roman Catholicism. These two cultural norms remained after the independence of Honduras in 1821.
Native Spanish speakers: 113 million
Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country (by population size).
When the Spanish colonists came to Mexico in the 16th century, they brought the Spanish language as well. In Mexico, the spoken variant is called español mexicano — Mexican Spanish.
There are a few phonetical differences between European and Mexican Spanish. One of the most notable differences includes the pronunciation of the letter z. In European Spanish, the letter z is pronounced similarly to a ‘th’ sound in English, whereas in Mexican Spanish it is pronounced like the letter ‘s’.
There are also indigenous languages that, in a similar way to the Guatemalan indigenous languages, have been made national languages by law.
Native Spanish speakers: 5 million
Nicaragua, a country that has been colonised by Britain and Spain, has a complex history. Following its colonisation and subsequent independence in 1821, the country had a civil war in 1926.
The Spanish language that remains, which is spoken in Nicaragua, is called español nicaragüenese (Nicaraguan Spanish). It is similar to many of its surrounding countries, but some things are different.
For instance, instead of the person pronoun tú, Nicaraguans use the phrase voseo, shortened to vos. This might be confusing for students of European Spanish, as the word vos might call to mind the personal pronoun vosotros.
Other languages spoken in Nicaragua include some indigenous languages such as Miskito.
Native Spanish speakers: 6 million
Paraguay’s official languages are Guarani and Spanish, with the majority of Paraguayans being bilingual and able to speak both of these languages.
There are a few differences between Paraguayan Spanish and European Spanish. As with Nicaragua, Paraguayans also use the voseo personal pronoun. They use it when using or referring to the second person singular.
A remarkable cultural fact about Paraguay’s official language Guarani is that it is one of the longest enduring indigenous languages within South America, with 90% of the population speaking it.
Native Spanish speakers: 2.5 million
Spanish is Panama’s official language. It is referred to as Panamanian Spanish and, since colonial times, it has spoken in the country. Now, Panamanian Spanish is spoken by more than 2.5 million native speakers.
But there are also some dissimilarities between Panamanian Spanish and European Spanish in terms of some of the spoken words and vocabulary. Panamanians, for instance, have adopted words and phrases from English. One of these words is fren, which is an abbreviation of the English word ‘friend’.
Some of the pronunciations differ too, with Panamanian Spanish sounding similar to Cuban and Puerto Rican Spanish. In certain words and phrases, for instance, Panamanians use an aspirated h sound instead of an s.
Native Spanish speakers: 26 million
Since 1532 and the subsequent colonial period, Peruvians have spoken Spanish. As well as Amazonic Spanish, other dialects spoken in Peru include Peruvian Coast Spanish, Andean Costal Spanish and Andean Spanish.
It was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, and it was only after José de San Martín’s military campaigns that Peru could achieve independence in 1824.
Today, as well as the predominant Christian religion, the language has remained — there are 26 million Spanish speakers in Peru.
Native Spanish speakers: 6 million
The official languages of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English. The Spanish language spoken in Puerto Rico is called español puertorriqueño and it is spoken by more than 6 million people.
Given that during the colonisation period, many Andalusian farmers settled in Puerto Rico, the language is similar to the Andalusian dialect.
The 19th century saw more immigrants settle in Puerto Rico, such as people from Italy and France — to name a few. It’s therefore not uncommon to hear words and phrases from other European languages being used in Puerto Rico as well.
The country has absorbed much of the Spanish culture, including its architecture and traditions such as giving newborns two surnames.
Native Spanish speakers: 40 million
Spain has more than 40 million native Spanish speakers. But one thing we should mention about Spain is that it also features a range of other languages in each of its main regions. These languages include Catalan (of Catalunya), Galician (of Galicia), and Basque (of the Basque Country).
As we’ve mentioned, the Spanish language (español), is also known as Castellano because the language originated in Castile.
Castellano is Spain’s official language and the country has a vibrant culture known for its delicious food and good wine.
Native Spanish speakers: 3 million
In Uruguay, there is a variation of the Spanish language spoken by three million Uruguayans. The language is called español uruguayo or Uruguayan Spanish.
In addition to the Spanish cultural influences in Uruguay, the country has also taken on some of the Italian culture and dialects. This is mainly due to the range of Italian communities found in the country.
One thing to note is that there are many dissimilarities between the Uruguayan Spanish accent and the European Spanish accent or even that of some Latin American countries. Some words that are also adopted from the Italian language are not easily understood by European Spaniards or Spanish speakers in Latin America.
Native Spanish speakers: 30 million native speakers
The variation of Spanish spoken in Venezuela is known as español venezolano (Venezuelan Spanish). The language has been spoken there since colonial times in which colonists brought the Spanish language to Venezuela.
As with Uruguayan Spanish, some Spaniards struggle to understand Venezuelan Spanish due to their distinct accent. The spoken language features dropped vowels and the dropped ‘s’ in words such as este ‘east’.
It features Italian and Portuguese customs due to those who immigrated to Venezuela towards the end of the 19th century.
Use your Spanish language skills abroad in a Spanish-speaking country
I’ll end this with a quick fact: A combination of all global Spanish speakers would cover more than two-thirds of the planet!
So, if you’re learning Spanish and love to travel, you can take your Spanish skills with you.
Make use of your Spanish language skills, share ideas and learn new customs. Speak with locals, get to know different traditions and expand what you know.
Knowing Spanish enhances your travels.
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The official languages of Spain
We always talk about learning Spanish (or Castilian), but few people realize that Spain is a multilingual state in which, along with castellano, there are three other official languages. They are used in some autonomous regions of the country.
The third article of the Spanish constitution of 1978 reads:
1. Of the languages of Spain, Castilian is the official state language. All Spaniards are obliged to know it and have the right to use it.
2. The remaining languages of Spain are also official in the respective autonomous communities in accordance with their Statutes.
3. The rich linguistic and dialectal diversity of Spain is part of its cultural heritage and enjoys special respect and protection.”
If the language is called Cooficial and is one of the official languages, then its status is equated to other official languages. Spanish autonomous regions with their own language include Galicia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. During the Franco dictatorship, the use of local languages was prosecuted by law, it is for this reason that now they are trying to protect them from extinction, as best as possible. The official languages are compulsory for learning in the educational centers of these regions.
Spanish or Castilian is considered the official language of the whole country, in practice it is the dominant language in all autonomous regions. But 6 of Spain’s 16 regions use other languages alongside Castellano, which usually have the status of a second official language.
But the existence of two official languages in one territory does not mean complete bilingualism. To varying degrees, castellano predominates depending. The local languages of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia are considered minority languages and various programs and development strategies are usually used to promote them.
All the local languages spoken in Spain, except for the Basque language (which is outside the group), belong to the group of Romance languages, in other words, those spoken in the Roman Empire and which are derived from Latin.
Castellano is the only official language of the entire country and is recognized as native by most of the Spanish population. After Mexico and the United States, Spain is the third country in the world in terms of Hispanic population (shares this place with Colombia).
It serves as the sole official language of regions such as Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Aragon, Castile-Leon, Madrid, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalusia, Canary Islands, Murcia, Ceuta, Melilla and parts of Navarre. And in Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia, the Basque Country and the Balearic Islands, it is considered one of the official ones.
In all these territories, Castilian is the standard language and the second official language is the minority language (the language of national minorities). For the most part, the local dialect prevails in colloquial speech, while Castilian prevails in official documents.
The language originated in the mountains of Cantabria and in the tenth century began a gradual expansion to the south. The dominance of the Castilian dialect over other languages began in the Middle Ages, during the Reconquista; with the establishment of the political, cultural and economic hegemony of the Kingdom of Castile, which then grew into Castile and León. The language also became widespread in the kingdoms of Aragon and Navarre, which contributed to the growth of the popularity of the language (especially in the areas of trade, communication and diplomacy) in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the second half of the twentieth century, the processes of internal migration, although to a lesser extent, also contributed to the dominance of the Spanish.
Catalan is considered the official language of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, while Valencian, which is the western variant of Catalan, has the same status only in the Community of Valencia.
There are two main varieties of Catalan: central, spoken in the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, and eastern Tarragona, and northwestern, spoken in Lleida and western Tarragona. In Catalonia, Castellano is the mother tongue of the majority of the population (53.5%), while Catalan is only 40.4%.
In turn, the language of the Balearic Islands is a variety of Catalan and has features that fundamentally distinguish it from the island dialect.
In Valencia, Valencian is used, which is a variety of Western Catalan. According to linguistic indicators, there are two zones in Valencia: Castilian monolingualism (13% of the population) and bilingualism of Valencian and Castilian (81% of the population).
Galician is the official language of Galicia. It is closely related to Portuguese and during the Middle Ages formed a close linguistic unity with it. At the beginning of the 14th century, thanks to the active movement to the south, the original dialect was divided into Portuguese and Galician.
In Galicia, 61% of the population speaks Galician more often than Castilian. A distinctive characteristic is that Castilian is preferred by the inhabitants of cities, while Galician is preferred by the inhabitants of the countryside.
Currently, this language is spoken by more than three million people, both in Galicia and in the eastern part of Asturias, Leon and Zamora.
Basque is the official language in the Basque country, parts of Navarre, and southern France.
The Basque language is one of the languages that dates back to the pre-Roman era. Many studies have been carried out, but so far it has not been possible to find out its origin. However, many scientists note its similarity with the Georgian language. Despite the strong Roman influence, in the third century the language was not subject to Romanization, managed to survive and did not undergo any significant changes.
By 1984, there were many dialects in the language, therefore, to simplify communication, the language was unified and called «euskera batúa».
Text: Irina Harseeva
Which countries speak Spanish
|Which countries speak Spanish|
Spanish is the most widely spoken Romance language. The Spanish language originated in the medieval kingdom of Castile (modern territory of Spain). During the Age of Discovery, during which Europeans conquered Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, the Spanish language spread widely to these territories.
There are currently about 470 million Spanish speakers. It is the second most spoken mother tongue in the world (after Chinese).
Spanish is the official language in the following countries:
|Dominican Republic||El Salvador|
In the United States, Spanish is also spoken, and in the state of New Mexico, Spanish actually has the status of an official language, since it is possible to use it in official documents along with English.