At the launch of the Instituto Cervantes’ annual report on the Spanish language, El español en el mundo 2012, Spain’s Exterior Minister (Secretary of State) José Manuel García-Margallo, and the Institute’s director, Víctor García de la Concha, stressed the importance of Asia (in particular, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, and India) to the growth of Spanish.
Garcia-Margallo also called the Instituto Cervantes “one the crown jewels of Spanish foreign policy.”
In addition to the U.S., the Cervantes Institute will focus its efforts on the booming Asia-Pacific region, where demand for Spanish instruction is growing fast. Cervantes is concentrating its efforts on Asia, because of proven levels of interest. In 2000, there were only 1,500 university students studying Spanish in the 90 universities that teach the language but now, there are 25,000.
Nearly 70% of applications to study Spanish are currently rejected because there are not enough Spanish teachers there to teach them. China sends students to 34 Latin American and 22 Spanish universities. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the Hispanic culture is trending, says the report, and almost every university there offers Spanish-language courses.
In Japan there are 2,000 schools that teach Spanish, and now, all high schools will be required to offer it as a foreign language.
In India, where there is the third largest education system in the world in terms of pupils, the presence of the Spanish language and culture is very recent – but represents a huge market.
Other highlights of the report include:
Spanish has become the most spoken language in the world after English – in real life as well as on social networking sites.
It is the second most used language on Twitter, after English, ahead of Portuguese and Japanese.
Online Spanish has grown by 800% over the last few years and is the third most popular Internet language, behind Mandarin Chinese and English. Out of more than a billion Facebook accounts, 80 million are in Spanish.
After Chinese, Spanish is the second most commonly used language in the world with currently 495 million Spanish speakers, and will represent an estimated 7.5% of the world’s population in 2030. “If this trend continues, in three or four generations 10% of the world’s population will understand Spanish, and the U.S. will be the country with the highest volume of Spanish-speakers, after Mexico,” says de la Concha, former Director of the Royal Spanish Academy, the official institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language.
“Spanish isn’t just spoken in Spain. Spain only represents 10% of the Spanish speakers worldwide,” said Garcia de la Concha.
There are currently 18 million people who are learning Spanish as a foreign language – an annual growth of 8%. “The demand for Spanish is mostly found among young people, who understand that it will open doors for them in their future international careers,” he said.