Elite Translation Article Learn about the Spanish language Spread of Spanish in the world Countries with Spanish as official language and millions of Spanish speakers

A major language in the world

For being based in South West Europe, Spanish is a Romance language. Due to great past colonial power of Spain, Spanish then spread in many countries. Not only we speak it in Spain, but also in South and North America mainly. In addition to Spain, it is then the official language of 20 countries, as shown through this list. Also, some strong groups of Spanish speakers use it daily is some other countries.

With about 540 million speakers, it is the 4th language the most spoken in the world. And it is even the 2nd one, before English, in terms of native speakers, with more than 460 million speakers. As ten of millions of migrants came to settle to the USA, Spanish became the 2nd official language in the country. Also, not only Spanish resists more than well to English, but it might even supplant it in the years to come.

With French and English, spanish is also one of the main languages in international communication. To that, it is one of the six official languages of the United Nations as well. Not to mention that it is the 3rd most used language on the web and the 2nd on two main social media, Facebook and Twitter.


Not only Spanish is a major language in the world, but all experts say that it will grow even more. Thus, while the Spanish language now counts for 6% in the world, it might increase to 7.5% by 2050.


We have to travel in time to reach its first roots. Indeed, native people spoke a Romance strate. It got a certain influence with some verbal features, some suffixes and some terms or toponyms.

From Latin

Due to Roman conquests between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, Latin came to the fore. All previous dialects then died slowly, except Basque which survived. For being a Latin language, Spanish is quite close to French, but even much more from Italian. As an Ibero Romance language, it also has a strong link with Portuguese. Latin then evolved to give birth to Old Castilian, which is the form of Old Spanish, in North Spain. The latter dialect appeared there, after the fall of the Roman empire, around the 8th and 9th century, and comes itself from vulgar Latin.

From German and Arabic

In fact, Spanish is such a very rich language in spite of itself. First, Latin slowly falled with the Roman empire, which led to the famous Barbarian Invasions. With them, these people from the North brought some German words. Second, and this time from the South, in the 8th century. At that time, the Muslim conquest strongly influenced the dialects. Thus, Castilian gets no less than 4,000 words of Arabic origin. We mainly found them in agriculture (aceite for oil ; aljibe for tank). But also in the military field (almirante for admiral, adalid for military chief), and administration (alguazil for agent or officer).

Spread of Castilian / Spanish

Over the last 1,000 years, Castillan has spread slowly in line with the growth of the Kingdom of Castile. We consider the Cartularies of Valpuesta the oldest texts written in Castilian. The Spanish empire then ended to impose it, mainly in America. After that, the 15th century is a turn. Indeed, until then, people spoke an Old Castilian while they spoke a Modern Spanish (Castilian) since then. Actually, these two forms are quite similar. Their main difference is in the consonant system.

The Golden Age

Later, linguists often call "classical Spanish" the Spanish language of the 16th and 17th centuries. This, to refer to the Golden Age of Spanish literature. Thanks to the empire and through contact with native people in America, Spanish also borrowed many terms of the daily life. This is the case in botany, zoology, food, etc.

From the 18th

As the Bourbon dynasty, a direct branch of the French one, seized the throne, they took example on the French style. That is how the Spanish Royal Academy was founded, in 1713, with the stated aim of preserving the purity of the language. It very soon built its first dictionary and grammar, both of which regularly updated since then.

Under and after Franco

At the dawn of the WW2, and for 40 years, Spain lived a strong fight against its dialects. Indeed, Franco wanted to restore Spain to its status of great power it had enjoyed during the Golden Age. For that, Castilian, symbol of Spain's great power, was to become the sole language. As a result, he ordered to ban all regional dialects, Basque and Catalan mainly, and to burn all books using them. All Basque names were then suppressed, as well.

However, promptly after Franco's death in 1975, King Juan Carlos I changed the country and the use of the Spanish language. Since then, if Castilian remains the official language, the other dialects can still exist. To get a clear visual of the evolution of the Spanish language, just click here.

Elite Translation Article Map detailing the Barbarian Invasions, Spanish Royal Academy, Cartularies of Valpuesta the oldest book in Castilian


Elite Translation Article Learn about the Spanish language unique N accent and punctuation writing system


For sure, the tilde is the most famous of the Spanish graphemes. It gives rise to a sign that people consider a letter in its own right: ñ. It was first a digram NN until the second N became the wavy line ~.

Very special in a writing system, we double an exclamation and question marks with an inverted sign of the same type. Thus, we place ¡ and ¿ just before a relevant proposition and not a sentence. For instance: ¿Qué tal estás? (How are you?).


What is easy with Spanish is that its written form is very close to its spoken form as we must pronounce all letters, with rare exceptions.