Spanish language

Spanish (also called Castilian) belongs to the Romance branch of the Indo-European language family. Like all Romance languages, Spanish developed from Vulgar Latin in an area of the Iberian Peninsula that is now Spain, and was exported to the Americas, the Philippines, and other parts of the world during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century.

It is spoken as a mother tongue by more than 399 million people in 30 countries around the world; and as a second language by some 89.5 million people. Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world (103 million). The four largest Spanish-speaking groups are Colombia (41 million), Spain (38.6 million), Argentina (38.8 million) and the United States (34.2 million according to the 2010 census). It is the fourth most spoken language in the world after Chinese, Hindi and English.

Spaniards call their own language Spanish to differentiate it from other foreign national languages. But they identify it as Castilian to differentiate it from other regional languages of Spain, such as Catalan, Galician or Basque. Other Spanish-speaking countries tend to use both terms, with a preference for Spanish.

Dialects of Spanish

Since Spanish is spoken by so many people in so many countries around the world, it is not surprising that there are so many dialects. The classic division is generally made between Spanish from Spain, or Castilian Spanish, and Spanish from Latin America. Within each division there are variations in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and intonation. Despite the many regional differences, Spanish speakers from different countries can communicate to each other easily. Below are examples of some differences.


The voiceless dental fricative [θ] does not exist in Latin American Spanish where ciento [hundred] and siento [I feel] are pronounced with an initial [s]. In almost all of Spain, however, ciento is pronounced with an initial [θ]. This is not the case elsewhere, such as in the south of the Peninsula or in the Canary Islands.

Spanish Grammar

The second person in the plural vosotros is the plural form of in most of Spain, whereas in the Americas it is usually replaced by ustedes. There are other significant differences in verb endings.


Anyone who has learned Spanish knows how frustrating it can be to discover that a word in a Spanish textbook may not be used in some Spanish-speaking countries, or may have a different meaning. For example, for the English word 'computer' we say ordenadorin Spain, but computadora in Latin America. The word 'bus' is guagua in Puerto Rico, but in Chile 'babies' are called guaguas.

Who speaks Spanish?

Spanish is the official (or national) language of Argentina, Bolivia (along with Quechua and Aymara), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea (along with French), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay (along with Guarani), Peru (along with Quechua and Aymara), Puerto Rico (along with English), Spain (co-official in some regions along with Catalan, Galician and Basque), Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the United States, Spanish is the most widely learned foreign language in schools and universities. Spanish has co-official status in the state of New Mexico and in Puerto Rico. It is one of the six official working languages of the United Nations and one of the 23 official languages of the European Union.

Translation agency for Spanish-English-Spanish

Now that you know a little more about the Spanish language, you might be interested to know that we offer professional translation services from both English to Spanish and from Spanish into English. We specialise in translation from and into Spanish.

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