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The Spanish Language - A Languages Of The World Primer

Dec 17, 2007
Spanish is one of the many so-called Romance languages that grew out of "Vulgar Latin". It originally developed in Cantabria in northern Spain before spreading its influence throughout much of the Iberian Peninsula during the "reconquest" of Spain from the Arab inhabitants. As a result, the language was heavily influenced by Arabic during this period.

From the 16th century onwards, Spanish spread throughout the new empire to much of South and Central America as well as to the Spanish East Indies (primarily the Philippines). In the 20th century, Spanish moved beyond the confines of the old Spanish empire, being introduced into Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea and parts of the United States that had not previously been Spanish-speaking.

Related languages
Spanish (known as Castilian in Spain) is most closely related to the other Iberian romance languages, primarily Asturian, Galician, Portuguese, Argonese and Catalan. In fact, the only native Iberian language with which Spanish has no real connection is Basque. Outside the Iberian peninsula, Spanish also has significant lexical similarities with Italian, French and Romanian. The lexical similarity between Portuguese and Spanish is estimated to be 89% with only pronunciation differences complicating mutual intelligibility. Italian and Spanish are a little less similar (82%) but are generally mutually intelligible to some degree.

Status today
Spanish is one of the official languages of the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations, and the European Union and is the leading official language in 22 countries worldwide, with almost all of them being in the Americas.

Indeed, of the major Spanish speaking countries, Spain is the only one outside the Americas. With up to 400 million native speakers, Spanish can claim to be the second most widely spoken language in the world. Including non-native speakers, it is estimated to be the fourth most widely spoken language on the planet. That said, calculating numbers of non-native speakers is notoriously difficult and statistics involving "most widely spoken languages" should be viewed more as general indicators of a language's importance.

With the increasing Spanish influence in the United States where it is already widely used by many federal agencies, its importance will clearly grow substantially over the coming years and decades. In fact, the United States already has in excess of 40 million native Spanish speakers, ranking as the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking community worldwide behind Mexico, Columbia, Spain and Argentina.
About the Author
Stranslations offers professional language translation services in English, French, Spanish, German and other major European languages.
The original version of this article can found at www.stranslations.com.
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