Last month, the Instituto Cervantes launched its yearbook, Spanish in the World 2019, with the latest data showing that a total of 580 million people speak Spanish (7.6% of the world’s population). Of these, 483 million are native Spanish speakers, which makes Spanish the second mother tongue in the world by number of speakers. In addition, it is studied by almost 22 million people in 110 countries. Spanish is the third-most-used language on the internet, where it has great growth potential.
The launch was hosted by Cervantes director Luis García Montero, who said that “teaching a language is much more than teaching a vocabulary; it is sharing values and showing a culture of open identities and democratic values.” For Montero, disseminating Spanish and its culture helps to counteract global problems such as “intolerance, supremacy, or identity chimeras that consider diversity a threat.”
The Madrid launch was followed by one in New York and another in Los Angeles (see p. 10.), demonstrating the Institute’s focus on the U.S., to which Montero added, “we want to stand by Hispanics in the U.S. against the politics of contempt and ‘English only.'”
Closing the Madrid launch, the acting deputy prime minister of Spain, Carmen Calvo, ignored the figures to focus on the importance of language, noting that she regretted that words sometimes lose their purpose—that is, to facilitate communication and understanding—and that they can be used as “weapons of destruction.” She denounced the perceived decrease in the capacity for dialogue and listening as well as “impoverishment of the lexicon,” arguing that faced with the “banal use of words,” social networks “do not help,” because anything can be said irresponsibly and without waiting for more response than a “like.”
During his speech, Richard Bueno, director of Cervantes New York, emphasized that Spanish has two complementary aspects—unity and diversity. He warned not to be complacent about the rising number of Spanish speakers and provided three tips: teach Spanish to speakers of other languages, educate Spanish speakers about the traction force of Spanish, and educate leaders about language’s role in getting people to work together or “row together in the same direction.”
The report contains four sections:
I. SPANISH IN THE WORLD 2019
The first section, “Spanish: A Living Language,” highlights the following data:
- Almost 483 million (2018: 480 million) people speak Spanish as their mother tongue.
- The number of potential Spanish users exceeds 580 million, including native, limited competence, and foreign language students. Last year it was 577 million.
- Spanish is the second mother tongue in the world by number of speakers, only behind Mandarin Chinese.
- It is the third language in the global computation of speakers (native domain + limited proficiency + Spanish students), after English and Chinese.
- For demographic reasons, the percentage of the world’s population that speaks Spanish as a native language is increasing, while the proportion of Chinese, English, and French speakers is decreasing.
- Now, 7.6% of the world population speaks Spanish (7.7% predicted in 2050).
- The U.S. will, in 2060, be the second Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico: almost one in three Americans will be Hispanic.
Study of Spanish as a Foreign Language
- 21,882,448 students are formally studying Spanish as a foreign language (67,000 more than last year).
- In the U.S., Spanish is the most studied language at all levels of education.
- The teaching of Spanish in English-speaking countries such as Canada (with 90,000 students), Ireland (47,000), Australia (34,000), and New Zealand (36,000) has also grown significantly.
- The contribution of all Spanish-speaking countries to global GDP is 6.9%.
- Spanish is the fourth-most-powerful economic language in the world, slightly behind French and Chinese and further behind English.
Spanish on the Internet
- It is the third-most-used language on the internet, after English and Chinese.
- 8.1% of internet communication occurs in Spanish.
- It is the second-most-used language on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Of the 580 million users of the LinkedIn social network, 55 million use Spanish to a greater or lesser extent. Most of them are in Central and South America.
- Spanish has a high potential for growth on the internet due to the average internet penetration in Spanish-speaking countries (which at 65.8% is still far below penetration in Spain, at 92%).
- Mexico is among the ten countries with the highest number of users on the internet.
- After English, Spanish is the language with the second-most scientific documents published in it.
- Spain is the third-largest exporter of books in the world, after the UK and the U.S.
II. THE FUTURE OF THE SPANISH LANGUAGE IN THE WORLD
The second section of the 2019 yearbook contains ten articles that dissect the future of the language over almost 230 pages.
III. THE INTERNATIONAL EVOLUTION OF SPANISH AND ITS CULTURE
The third section addresses the evolution of Spanish and its culture in Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Israel, Egypt, Italy, and Portugal. This section was launched in 2018 with the intention to map geographically and thematically, year after year, the international presence of the Hispanic language and its cultures.
IV. CERVANTES INSTITUTE REPORTS
Reports from the Cervantes Institute end the book, with the article that updates and presents in detail all the information regarding Cervantes Institutes around the world. The Madrid launch was attended by the filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most enthusiastic ambassadors for Spanish culture abroad.