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Are you one of the 7.5% of the world who speaks Spanish? Language of Cervantes is growing fast, latest figures show
29 October 2020 @ 19:36

IF YOU speak Spanish, you're in good company: One in every 15 people on earth do so, according to the Cervantes Institute.

The global Spanish language standards entity, based in Madrid, revealed this week that as at the beginning of 2020, the national tongue of Spain and much of Latin America had a total of 585 million speakers.

They include those who have had to learn it, or whose main native language is not Spanish, as well as mother-tongue speakers – and, as has been the case for a very long time, the country with the most native Spanish speakers is the USA, a nation where it is not even the official language.

Of the 7.5% of the world's population who speak Spanish, a total of 489 million were born in a country where it is the official language, and the remaining 74 million are either learning it or are already fluent in it.

The latter covers those who have studied and learnt Spanish to a fluent level as well as those whose parents or grandparents are from a Spanish-speaking country but who, themselves, were born in a country where it is not the official tongue, and who have grown up using the language with their family.

Numbers are continuing to increase, says the Cervantes Institute, which says those learning or perfecting their existing knowledge of the language have multiplied by 60% in the last decade and by half a million in the last year, to a total of 22.4 million.

Nine in 10 people who are studying Spanish, either officially for a qualification such as a degree or Cervantes Institute exam, or informally for pleasure, for work or because they live in or have second homes in a Spanish-speaking country, are based in, or come from, the USA, Brazil and European Union countries.

Spanish is the second-most spoken native language on earth in terms of numbers after Mandarin Chinese and the most-spoken in terms of distribution or number of countries.

Around 20 years ago, it was the third-most spoken native tongue on earth after Mandarin Chinese and Hindi.

In terms of actual speakers, Spanish is the third-most used and Mandarin Chinese is the second, since English has the peculiarity of being the only language on the planet with more non-native than native speakers – even though it is the most-used tongue worldwide, it only comes third in numbers of mother-tongue users.

Overall, numbers of Spanish-speakers have risen by five million in a year.

By the year 2068, it is expected that 724 million people in the world – one in 10 of the current population – will be speaking Spanish either as a foreign language or a native tongue.

Coordinator of this year's Cervantes Institute report, David Fernández Vítores, says after the next 50 years or so, it is likely the numbers of Spanish-speakers will start to level off.

“It's a trend that has been gradually occurring for many years: The natural growth of Spanish-speaking countries is slowing down,” he says.

“The conclusion is that, if we want Spanish to continue to be an influential language, we cannot expect demographics alone to be a sufficient factor.

“One always talks about the 'law of third-generation immigrants'. For example, a grandchild of Italian immigrants in the USA no longer has any real desire to speak Italian, meaning the family language eventually dies out.

“At the moment, it's still quite possible that the grandchild of Hispanic immigrants in the USA will break this trend, because it seems third-generation Hispanic migrants are still interested in being able to converse in Spanish.

“There's already a critical mass: The USA has Spanish-language TV, music, information, news, and there's work for Spanish-speakers.”



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