Almost 600 million people in the world, 7.5% of the total, speak Spanish


The 7.5 percent of the world’s population already speaks Spanish, with a total of 591 million users potentials of this language and an increase of six million compared to 2020, while the number of native Spanish speakers continues to grow to 493 million people.

These are some of the data reflected in the yearbook ‘Spanish in the world 2021’, presented this Thursday at the Cervantes Institute, an institution that in its 30 years of existence has seen as the number of Spanish speakers has increased by 70% worldwide.

The number of native Spanish speakers has grown by four million people in one year, which, together with those with limited Spanish proficiency and the 24 million students who speak it as a foreign language, places the potential users in 591 million people.

Spanish remains as the World’s second mother tongue by number of speakers, after Mandarin Chinese, according to the study included in the yearbook ‘Spanish: a living language’, carried out by David Fernández Vítores. It is also the third language in a global tally of speakers (including those with native proficiency, limited proficiency, and students), after English and Mandarin Chinese.

Preserve pan-Hispanic awareness

During the presentation of the yearbook, the director of Cervantes, Luis García Montero, stressed the importance of preserve “pan-Hispanic consciousness” of Spanish and avoid “imperialist wars” that would have as a consequence the “fracture” of the language.

It has also highlighted the consolidation of Spanish in USA after a few years – referring to the mandate of Trump– in which “they wanted to recover the tradition of the poor and secondary language” and “Spanish was deleted from the White House website“.” Studies indicate by 2060 more than 27% of the US population will be of Hispanic origin – it would make the US the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico– and today this community would in itself make up the eighth largest economy in the world, “he explained.

The yearbook published this year, a special edition for the 30th anniversary of the institution, present in 45 countries, includes a presentation of Philip VI and an article by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez. “The role of Cervantes in these three decades reveals its importance as an instrument of public diplomacy,” says the King in the yearbook, while Sánchez highlights how the institution has become “the international benchmark in the teaching of Spanish.” .

And it is that since 2010 (when the report ‘Spanish: a living language’ began to be produced), the number of Spanish students counted by the Cervantes Institute has doubled, from 11.3 million to more than 24.

The Spanish second place is disputed with French and Mandarin Chinese as the most studied language as a second language. And while in the United States, Spanish is by far the most studied language at all levels of education, in the European Union, English is the most studied language, followed by French. Spanish competes with German for third place but the proportion of students of Spanish in primary and secondary education has increased steadily in recent years, while that of French and German has decreased.

Also, in the United Kingdom, the Brexit consolidates the advance of Spanish in such a way that their study has already surpassed French in high school and the same is expected to happen in the other educational stages this decade.

the Spanish in the world

81 percent of the world’s Spanish students are divided between the United States, the European Union and Brazil, although in Sub-Saharan Africa it grows significantly, especially in countries where French is an official or co-official language, such as Côte d’Ivoire (with 566,178 students), Benin (412,515), Senegal (356,000), Cameroon (193,018), Gabon (167,410) ) or Equatorial Guinea (128,895).

Long-term forecasts reflect how the number of Spanish speakers will continue to grow in the next five decades, although its relative weight will decrease progressively between now and the end of the century.

In this sense, García Montero has stressed that the great challenge ahead is to strengthen Spanish in the field of artificial intelligence, given that the digital revolution will be “increasingly profound.” “Spanish is the language of Cervantes but also of Ramón y Cajal, we have a task ahead in the field of science and technology,” he warned.

Regarding the importance of Spanish in the economy, science and the Internet, the yearbook emphasizes that the global Spanish-speaking community has a joint purchasing power of approximately 9% of GDP world and that, after English, Spanish is the second language in which more documents of a scientific nature are published.

Spanish is the third most used language on the internet after English and Chinese in such a way that 7.9% of internet users communicate in Spanish and it is the second most used language on digital platforms and social networks such as Youtube, Facebook, Wikipedia or Instagram, only behind English.

Opportunities for the future

On the other hand, García Montero has clarified that in the State’s general budgets presented on Wednesday by the Government the state endowment to Cervantes increases from 126 to 135 million euros.

The reduction of the global calculation that appears in the accounts (from 174 million last year to 161 this year) is due to the distribution of European funds for digital transformation, more than 80 million euros to be spent in four years, of which 48 million were recorded last year and this year 26 million more.

Cervantes’ spending in 2022 will be aimed at strengthening the presence in sub-Saharan Africa, starting the new center in Los Angeles and opening another one in Seoul, García Montero has advanced.

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