As summarised by a Spanish Language professor, Jesús Sánchez Lobato, Spanish is a “national, multi-ethnic and multicultural language of communication”. The figures for the Spanish language speak for themselves: it is the language that is growing the most in the world, according to data from the Cervantes Institute, in its report A Living Language 2018, which estimates the number of people who speak it as their mother tongue at 480 million people, compared with 399 million people who speak English.
Spanish is the second largest mother tongue in the world in regard to number of speakers, only surpassed by Mandarin Chinese, and it is the official language in 21 countries, spoken today by over 577 million people as a native tongue, second language or foreign language. This means that 7.6% of the world population can communicate in Spanish. According to the review carried out every year by the Cervantes Institute, the year-on-year increase is almost 4.5 million people.
Spanish is extended through different regions of the world and it incorporates various features from all of them. Despite its diversity, it is one of the most homogeneous languages in the world both owing to the prestige of the literary, scientific and artistic culture of Spanish and the academic work of the 22 Academies of the Spanish Language which for two decades now have been promoting a panhispanic perspective with regard to orthography, grammar and lexicography.
One of the recent results of this initiative is the dictionary that is celebrating 300 years since the inception of the Spanish Royal Academy, a compliation of work by the 22 academies, and it is simply called the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (DLE) (Spanish Language Dictionary). The unification of the evaluation processes around the Spanish as a Foreign Language Diploma (DELE), the Spanish online examination (SIELE) or the mutual recognition system for certifications in Spanish (SICELE) have helped to extend and diversify the teaching of Spanish, as the CANOA network will surely do as well, geared towards the international promotion of culture in Spanish, presented at the Córdoba Language Congress (Argentina, 2019).
A strong online presence in education
Spanish is the third most used language online, after English and Mandarin Chinese, and it is already the second language on Wikipedia by number of consultations and also the second most used on Facebook and Twitter, two of the main social media platforms in our geographic area.
The demographic, economic and geopolitical growth of Spanish-speaking countries has also boosted the worldwide interest in learning Spanish and the World is studying Spanish,report from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, show promising indicators. Almost 22 million people study Spanish as a second language worldwide, more than a third of whom are in the United States, whilst awaiting changes in the education policy of China (which has included Spanish in its secondary education since 2018-19) may bring about major changes in the forthcoming years.
In the USA the number of students enrolled in Spanish courses is triple that of students enrolled in other language courses which should be no surprise as the Hispanics are already the largest minority in the country and have important economic and political relevance. Spanish in the USA is switching from a situation of diglossia to that of bilingualism.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Spanish language in the USA is the growing political weight of the Hispanic community in the country, as shown in the analysis by the Elcano Royal Institute Spanish a universal language. In the 2016 elections there were 27.3 million Hispanics entitled to vote (11% of the total), a 70% increase on the 2000 figure.
For various reasons Spanish is also relevant for the United Kingdom where the British Council reports on Languages for the future insists year after year on the need to promote the learning of Spanish, ahead of other languages, as the language with the most potential impact on the future of its economy. The switch to the Pacific of various zones in Asia is also awakening in this region an increasing interest in the Spanish language as the conduit for a flourishing relationship with Latin American countries.
Economic impact of Spanish
Economically speaking, the Cervantes Institute stresses that Spanish is the fourth most powerful language in the world, slightly behind French and Chinese and further behind English, according to factors such as its dispersal and geographic extension, economic weight, its use as a transmitter of knowledge and it use in the field of diplomacy. To be precise, the contribution of Spanish-speaking countries as a whole to world GDP is 6.9%, a percentage higher than that generated, for example, amongst those who have French as their official language.
In the field of publishing Spanish is also amongst the worlds top rankings. Spain is the third highest exporter of books, behind the UK and the USA; and, along with Argentina, it is in the top 15 of the main book producers in the world according to the International Publishers Association. According to the Cervantes Institute, Spanish is also the third language in which the most magazines are published, well behind English and French.
Although the presence of Spanish has been gaining relative importance in world scientific publications since 1996, the language is still in a secondary position in international terms by contrast, for example, with the global projection of Spanish literature, music and painting. This is thus one of the areas on which the Spanish-speaking community needs to work in order to keep strengthening the role of Spanish worldwide.
Basically, Spanish is an exceptional vehicle for cohesion, harmony and exchange, not only amongst the Spanish-speaking community, but also around the world.
REFERENCES AND SOURCES:
- Grijelmo, Alex; Merino, Jose María; (2019). Más de 555 millones podemos leer este libro sin traducción: La fuerza del español y cómo defenderla (Pensamiento), Taurus.
- Report a living language 2018.
- Reports the World is studying Spanish, from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
- Elcano Royal Institute Spanish a universal language.