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LESSER KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
- September 10, 2021
- Posted by: elanwp
- Category: Spanish Blogs
Spanish is a beautiful language with a wide global influence on business and culture. It’s spoken in many diverse areas of the world, so Spanish speakers benefit from being able to communicate with all kinds of people in all types of situations in Spanish-speaking countries and beyond.
Over 400 million people speak Spanish
Spanish is the mother tongue of an estimated 400-450 million people, making it the world’s second most spoken language. Spanish only falls in second place behind Chinese, which is spoken by over a billion people and far outranks any other language. Spanish surpasses English in its number of speakers, as English comes in third place with 335 million native speakers around the world.
There are 21 countries that have Spanish as the official language
Spanish enjoys official language status in 21 countries across Europe, Africa, Central, South and North America, making it a very important global language. Not only is it the main language for these 21 sovereign states, it also serves as a key language in a handful of dependent territories. For many people in these places, it’s the only way to communicate and all official correspondence and documents are in Spanish. Spanish is also used in schools to teach the curricula. Since English is spoken in 112 countries, the English language is the most widespread in terms of the number of countries that speak it. French is second with 60 countries speaking the language and Arabic is third, with 57 countries who communicate in Arabic. Sure, Spanish only comes in fourth place in this aspect, but that still results in making it one of the most significant languages in the world. Many international companies and organizations, including the United Nations, have adopted Spanish as one of their official languages.
Spanish is a Romance language
Spanish belongs to the Indo-European languages, which include French, English, Russian, German, the Slavic and Scandinavian languages as well as various languages in India. Indo-European languages initially spread across Europe and many areas of South Asia before reaching other parts of the world through colonization. The name “Indo-European” has a geographical meaning relating to the languages’ most easterly reaches in the Indian subcontinent and their most westerly reaches throughout Europe. Spanish is further classified as a Romance language, along with Catalan, Italian, French, Portuguese and Romanian. You probably already knew about Spanish being a Romance language on some level, but the importance of this goes deeper than you might expect. All these intercontinental connections give Spanish a distinct advantage. Knowing its roots in and relationships with other languages can help you better understand Spanish linguistically, historically and culturally.
Spanish has Latin origins
The Spanish language derives from a particular type of spoken Latin. This dialect developed in the central-northern region of the Iberian Peninsula following the 5th-century demise of the Western Roman Empire. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, Toledo developed a written language standard and Madrid followed suit through the 1500s. During the last 1,000 years, the language has become more widespread, moving south towards the Mediterranean. It was subsequently adopted by the Spanish Empire and, just as importantly, in the Spanish colonies established on the American continents.
Spanish has two names: Castellano and Español
Spanish speakers often refer to their language as español as well as castellano, which is the Spanish word for “Castilian.” The terms applied can differ from region to region, and they can also reflect political and social views. In English, the term “Castilian Spanish” can be used to refer to individual dialects of Spanish spoken in the northern and central parts of Spain. Occasionally, the term is used more loosely to refer to the Spanish spoken in Spain, as opposed to Latin American Spanish.
Arabic influenced Spanish
Arab armies started to conquer the Iberian Peninsula in 711, bringing Arabic art, architecture and language to the region. Arabic gradually mixed with old Spanish to become the language spoken today. When Spain expelled the Arabs in 1492, the language retained some 8,000 Arabic words. Apart from Latin, Arabic is the largest contributor to Spanish. Many words that you already know in Spanish come from Arabic, such as el alfombra (carpet), la almendra (almond) and la almohada (pillow). When you travel through Spain, you’ll come across many place, region and historic site names that come from Arabic, such as El Alhambra.
The earliest Spanish texts were written over 1000 years ago!
Las Glosas Emilianenses (Glosses of Saint Emilianus), written in 964, were long thought to be the first written Spanish texts that survive today. They consist of Spanish and Basque notes made on a religious Latin manuscript. The unknown author is thought to have been a monk at the Suso monastery. In 2010, however, the Real Academia Española announced that the first examples of written Spanish exist in 9th-century medieval documents known as the “Cartularies of Valpuesta,” from the Burgos province.