If you're currently learning Spanish, a language that is spoken in many countries in the Western Hemisphere and Spain, reading the following interesting facts about the language may enrich your understanding of Latin society and culture. You'll be able to get a better idea as to why it happens to be one of the most studied languages in the world.
Here are 10 interesting facts about the Spanish language that will fascinate you:
1. Spanish is the Dominant Language in the Western Hemisphere.
With 329 million native speakers who speak it as their first language, this Latin language is the third most widely spoken language in the world after Chinese (1.2 billion) and English (328 million). It's spreading rapidly compared to other languages. By 2050, about 600 million people will be speaking Spanish.
2. Spanish is Spoken in At Least 44 Countries
Spanish is spoken by a minimum of 3 million first language speakers in 44 countries, which makes it the fourth most geographically spoken language behind English (112 countries), French (60) and Arabic (57).
3. Spanish is Part of the Indo-European Family of Languages
Spanish is a language member of the Indo-European family of languages, which is spoken by more than a third of the globe's population. Other members of this family of languages include French, English, German, the Slavic languages, the Scandinavian languages and several Indian languages. Spanish also falls under the subcategory of a Romance language, a small family group of languages that includes Portuguese, French, Catalan, Italian and Romanian.
4. Spanish Goes Back to the 13th Century
Experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact century wherein Castilian Latin of the north-central region of Spain became Spanish. However, there is agreement that laws passed by King Alfonso in the 13th century to establish Castilian as a distinct official language of the government helped give form to the language. By the time Columbus traveled to the Americas in 1492, his version of Spanish had evolved to the point where it could easily be understood by modern Spanish speakers today.
5. Mexico is The Largest Spanish-Speaking Country
With a population of over 121 million people who speak Spanish, Mexico is geographically the largest Spanish-speaking country. With nearly 53 million people, the United States is home to the globe's second-largest Spanish-speaking population, followed by Colombia, Spain and Argentina. Each country is home to an array of Spanish dialects – the dialect spoken in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for example, is vastly different from the local dialect of certain Patagonian villages.
6. Spanish is the Third Most Popular Language of the Internet
Spanish is the third most popular language of the Internet with 7.9% of Internet users communicating in the Latin language. However, Spanish is the second most popular language of giant social media networks Facebook and Twitter. It is also the second language of importance to Wikipedia in terms of number of users who visit the site.
7. The Royal Spanish Academy was Founded in the 18th Century
Founded in the 18th century, the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) is universally recognized as the arbiter of the Spanish language. It compiles and releases grammar guides and official dictionaries that are widely followed by the people of Spain and Latin America. The institute established the wide use of the inverted exclamation point and question mark (¡ and ¿) as well as the letter “ñ” (which was first introduced to the language sometime around the 14th century), which has been absorbed by a few other non-Spanish languages of Spain.
8. Spanish is Relatively Easy to Learn
English native speakers find Spanish to be a relatively easy language to learn. It takes an English native speaker around 22-24 weeks of study to reach a general proficiency in speaking and reading. General social proficiency, however, is attained earlier and this is the level needed to travel and conduct conversations with locals on a variety of topics. The very best way to learn Spanish is through immersion classes in a Spanish speaking country, if you have the time.
9. The Vowel “e” is the Most Used Letter in the Spanish Language
The word that is most used in Spanish is the preposition “de” while the longest word in the language – the rarely used medical term “esternocleidomastoiditis” -- runs 25 letters long. For a long time, the 24-letter word “electroencefalografistas” (electroencephalographists) was thought to be the longest word in Spanish.
10. Many Spanish Words Have Arabic Roots
The origin of a lot of words in Spanish can be traced back to Arabic – the language that has had the most cultural influence on the Spanish language after Latin. The Arab presence in Spain that lasted for nine centuries led to the absorption of multiple Arabic words by Spanish speakers. About 4,000 words in the Spanish language are of Arab origin, such as “aceituna” (olive), “almohada” (pillow), “azúcar” (sugar) and “arroz” (rice), to name a few.