The Spanish Language is a member of the Romance group in the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European language family, spoken chiefly in the Iberian peninsula and in Latin America by an estimated 330 million people. It is also known as Castilian, after the dialect from which modern Spanish developed. The Spanish language was carried by Spanish colonists to the Canary Islands, the Antilles, the Philippines, southern North America, the greater part of South America and the coast of Africa.
In the Iberian peninsula the Spanish-language area does not coincide exactly with the political boundaries of Spain. Spain contains three non-Spanish-speaking regions: Galicia, in the north-west, where Gallegan (technically a dialect of Portuguese) is spoken; the Basque provinces, in the north, where Basque, a unique agglutinative language, is spoken; and Catalonia, along the east coast, where Catalan, also a Romance language, is spoken. Catalan is also spoken in the Balearic Islands; in France, in the Pyrénées-Orientales; and in parts of Cuba and Argentina.
In its grammatical structure Castilian Spanish is generally in conformity with French, Italian, Portuguese, and the other Romance languages
History of the Spanish Language
The Vulgar Latin spoken by Roman armies and settlers in ancient Spain formed the basis of the many Spanish dialects that developed in the various regions of the country during the Middle Ages. The dialect of Castile, or Castilian Spanish, gradually became the accepted standard as Castile gained political dominance in the 13th century.
While the majority of Spanish words derive from Latin, many are taken from other sources; for example, pre-Latin languages such as Greek, Basque, and Celtic. The invasion of the Visigoths early in the 5th century AD introduced a few Germanic words. The Muslim conquest three centuries later brought in a large number of Arabic words, many of which are easily detected by the prefixed Arabic article al. Under the influence, beginning in the 11th century, of French ecclesiastics and pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, the Spanish vocabulary was appreciably augmented by words and phrases from French. During the 15th and 16th centuries an infusion of elements from the Italian occurred because of Aragonese domination in Italy and the great vogue of Italian poetry in Spain. Relations between Spain and its colonies and possessions have led to the introduction of terms from Native American languages and other sources, and scholarly activities have constantly increased the stock of borrowed words.
Spanish Language Facts
- Spanish is the second world language as a vehicle of international communication and the third as an international language of politics, economics and culture.
- About 330 million people in the world speak Spanish as their first language.
- The demand for Spanish courses has doubled world-wide in ten years.
- Spanish is the official language in 21 countries.
- Approximately another 100 million people speak Spanish as a second language.
- Spanish is expected to be the first language of 50% of the population of the United States within 50 years.
- Spanish is the most popular foreign language to learn in America and Europe.
- Today Spanish is an official language of the UN and its institutions, the European Union and other international organisations.
- Latin American countries are experiencing constant economic growth and becoming more important as trading partners
How to Learn Spanish
How many times have you thought that you’d like to learn Spanish but you’re no good at languages or that you don’t have time to learn? Well we have some good news for you. Thanks to developments in the educational software market and the willingness of people to travel to study languages it has never been easier to learn the language.
Various methods are available to help you start learning Spanish and with time you might decide to try a combination of them. If you want to start studying Spanish at home then the simplest way is to get hold of one of the many courses available such as those created by Duolingo, Linguaphone and Rosetta Stone. This is a very entertaining way to learn Spanish by copying the native speakers who appear throughout these courses.
Learn Spanish in Spain
If you have the time and inclination to travel then there is nothing to beat learning Spanish in Spain. There are courses available all year round of varying lengths and for students of all ages and abilities. This is a great way to not only learn Spanish but also to get to know Spain. Many schools are located in beautiful locations such as Granada or Salamanca whilst others are in the big cities of Madrid and Barcelona or on the holiday islands of Mallorca or Tenerife.
There are four very good reasons why you should consider learning Spanish in Spain.
It’s Easier: Studying a language at home, whether at a school or on a correspondence course, demands a lot of energy and discipline. You have a million other things to do and each time, before you go to your class or start your homework, you have to “get back into it”. The only aim during your Spanish course in Spain is to learn Spanish. It will come naturally.
It’s Faster: During the course you will be living in Spain. You will be immersed in the culture and you will hear, read and speak nothing but Spanish all day. In this way you will pick up an amazing amount quickly, both inside and outside the classroom.
It Produces Better Results: A language is more than just grammar and a collection of words. It is the means of communication between people, which is why you can never really learn a language from a book. Essential knowledge you can only obtain in the country where the language is spoken.
It’s More Stimulating and Enjoyable: When you learn Spanish in Spain, studying is definitely not dull or boring. You will be introduced to its rich culture, the fiestas, the countless ‘tapas’ bars and cafés, strolling through town and getting into the street life. At weekends you can travel to the countryside or the beach. You will visit the most beautiful cities and make friends for life with people from all over the world. Learning Spanish in Spain is an adventure.
Learn Spanish Free Online
Another option is to learn Spanish online by signing up for an online Spanish course requiring all the dedication of a classroom based course. There are four levels available with each level taking around 40 hours of study. Learning is done through your computer with weekly contact with an online teacher.
If you look around the internet you can find a wealth of information which enables you to learn Spanish free online. One of my favourites is the BBC Spanish Website which provides a great selection of interesting tools to help improve your Spanish.
Once you’ve reached a reasonable level it’s well worthwhile reading the news in one of the quality daily newspapers such as El Pais. Advanced speakers will be interested in the official Castellano Website which is a lively academic site promoting the Spanish language.