Spanish language reaches 600 million speakers

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Spanish language

MADRID – The number of Spanish speakers worldwide has reached 600 million. This number represents 7.5% of the world’s population. This makes Spanish the most spoken language in the world after Mandarin.

This data was revealed by the Cervantes Institute during its annual conference. However, the growth in the number of Spanish speakers appears to be levelling off. This is partly due to the influence of immigration in the United States. The institute expects that the number of Spanish speakers will continue to increase through 2068, reaching a peak of 724 million speakers. Nevertheless, Spanish’s relative global position will decline due to demographic shifts, especially in Africa, where Spanish is not spoken as a first language.

Challenges for the Spanish language

Spanish faces several challenges. Luis García Montero, director of the Instituto Cervantes, and academic director Carmen Pastor emphasise the importance of linking the language to a rich cultural offer to maintain interest in learning Spanish. Although the number of Spanish students remains high, a slight stagnation is noticeable. This is attributed to a global trend of people learning languages informally, beyond the reach of traditional educational institutions.

Spanish language in the United States

In the United States, the future of Spanish will be affected by the extent to which children and grandchildren of Latin American immigrants retain the language. Despite the growing Hispanic population in the US, their commitment to the Spanish language is declining. A recent survey shows that 85% of Latin Americans in the US no longer consider it essential to speak Spanish. In addition, Spanish suffers from the image of a language that is mainly spoken by poor people.

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Spanish speaking among Latin American children

A Pew Research Centre study shows that 66% of Latin American children under the age of five are fluent in Spanish, down from 78% in 2000. This illustrates the challenge of passing the language on to future generations. This challenge is comparable to the decline in the number of Italian speakers in the US since the 1950s.

Spanish and the international community

The Instituto Cervantes yearbook also highlights the growth of Spanish in other countries. Portugal, for example, has a million Spanish speakers, and there is increasing interest in the language in countries such as Ukraine, Iran and Thailand. In the European Union, Spanish is the second most learned language after English.

Also read:Sé verlas al revés’ and ‘luz azul’, the most beautiful Spanish palindromes

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