According to the latest estimations of Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, there are now more than 577 million Spanish speakers (7.6% of the global population) in the world—five million more than last year’s estimate.
It is in the U.S. that the language is growing fastest, said the academic director of the Instituto Cervantes, Richard Bueno Hudson, at the opening of a recent program called “Evolution of the Spanish Language in the World.” David Fernández Vítores, a professor at the University of Alcalá, predicted that the “40 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. [will] overtake the native Spanish community [in Spain] in a decade.”
Native speakers make up 480 million (477 million at the previous count)—434,875,921 who live in the Hispanic world and 45,353,721 who live outside of it.
The number of Spanish native speakers is just behind that of Chinese, which in 2017 amounted to 960 million. However, the international projection of this language is not as big. In terms of native speakers, Spanish also surpasses English, which has 399 million, according to figures from 2018.
There are 75 million Spanish speakers with “limited competence” (who speak the language with some difficulty), compared to over a billion such Englsih speakers. In addition, there are 21 million people studying the language, of whom two thirds are in the U.S. and Brazil.
According to Bueno, the growth of Spanish usage can be attributed to “its homogeneousness and the fact that it is internationally and geographically compact.”
However, it still lacks the economic clout of English and Chinese, with countries that speak Spanish only accounting for 6.9% of the gross economic product of the planet, compared to 18.2% for China and 55% for English.
At the annual meeting of the directors of the Instituto Cervantes, the president of Spain’s autonomous region of Valencia, Ximo Puig, underlined the growing importance of the country’s diverse languages, claiming that “Spanish languages and cultures are more important than ever in the world” in order to “shape globalization and influence it.”
Puig urged the country’s regional directors to “work for the culture of this country of countries that is Spain” to preserve diversity, which “is a privilege rather than a problem, because uniformity is always totalitarian.”