The great thing about the English language is that it allows you to travel pretty much anywhere in the world and be understood. Whether a Swede in Singapore, A Dane in Doha or a Japanese in China, English forms the go-to bridge between two different languages…
Spanish does not quite share that ubiquity, but it remains proudly encamped in second-place on two very important lists: it is the world’s second-most popular second language (after English of course), and is also the world’s second most widely spoken language, after Mandarin.
And unlike English and Mandarin, its popularity is actively growing. While the number of people speaking and learning English and Mandarin will increase largely in correlation with population increases through to 2060, Spanish speakers are set to rise in number to 754 million, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing languages.
In the past year, the number of Spanish native speakers has grown by five million, according to an annual report by Spanish in the World 2017 – growth that Juan Manuel Bonet, director of the Cervantes Institute, says is an example of the rude health of the language.
“People are not leaving the Americas like before. Now people want to work there and it draws people in. Spanish is very useful. It opens markets,” said Bonet.
Around the world, 7.8% of people speak Spanish, and this figure will remain stable through to 2050 whereas English and Mandarin’s influence will wane, Bonet added.
Of the 572 million current Spanish speakers, 477.6 million are native speakers, a further 73.7 million have learned the language, and an additional 21.2 million are currently studying it to a high level.
In the USA, some 43 million people speak Spanish as their native tongue, with a further 15 million able to converse fluently in the language, while most of Latin America is Spanish-speaking.
Its popularity is also growing in China, although English is still the dominant second language there.