Language Overview: Spanish

September 2nd, 2012

Spanish, also known as Castilian after the Castille region of Spain where it originated, is a Romance language.

Language Overview Spanish

History of Spanish

Like all Romantic languages, Spanish has its roots in Latin, which was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans around 210 BC. This common Latin was influenced by the local dialects of Celtiberian and Basque. From the 5th to the 8th centuries AD, the area was controlled by the Visigoths but had very little influence upon the local language. Between the 8th and 15th centuries, it was heavily influenced by Arabic as control of the peninsula repeatedly changed hands between Christians and Muslims.

During the 13th century AD, Spanish evolved out of the local common Latin present in the Kingdom of Castille, which occupied the area of present-day northern Spain. During the 15th and 16th centuries AD, Spanish consonants changed dramatically, giving rise to many of the sounds that are recognized today.

Starting in the 16th century, Spain colonized the America’s, bringing the language with them. In the 20th century, it spread to Equatorial Guinea, the Western Sahara, and parts of the United States that had not previously been a part of the Spanish Empire.

Spanish Today

Today, with over 400 million native speakers and over 500 million speakers total, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese. 

It is the official or de facto language of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea (along with French and Portuguese), El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru (along with local predominate indigenous languages), Bolivia (along with 37 other languages), Paraguay (along with Guaraní), and Puerto Rico. 

Spanish is also a non-official language in dozens of other countries and Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world.

Learning Spanish

Due to the widespread geographic presence of Spanish, there are many spoken dialects of Spanish that are all very different from each other in pronunciation and vocabulary. Mexican Spanish is the primary dialect and is spoken by over 20% of Spanish speakers. Written Spanish uses the Latin script and includes the three additional letters CH, LL and Ñ. Written Spanish does not vary from one region to the next, like pronunciation and vocabulary.

Due to the widespread popularity and use of the language, access to Spanish learning resources is readily available in every form, including classroom instruction, software, books, tapes, and online instruction.

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