We all know that, with the exception of Brazil, all the countries on the continent of South America speak Spanish.  Move to North America though and you naturally think of the ‘normal’ language as being English, albeit the American variety.   However, Spanish is the second most used language in the United States.  In fact, there are more Spanish speakers in the United States than there are speakers of Chinese, French, German, Italian, Hawaiian, and the combined!

It is often thought that the sheer size of the USA means that it is has the second largest number of Spanish speakers in the world, however, the US Census Bureau has calculated that it is, in fact, only the fifth, behind Mexico (117 million Spanish speakers), Spain (47.2 million), Colombia (47 million) and Argentina (41 million).

Spanish is a growing language in the USA. The US Census Bureau also estimates that Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by 38.3 million people aged five or older, a figure that has doubled since 1990. That said, research carried out in 2013 suggests that while more and more people are speaking español in the United States, in the future more of those Spanish speakers will not be Hispanic.

The expectation is that as immigrant families become more established, future generations will follow the pattern of previous immigrants from Europe and Asia and stop using their native language and speak English.

However, concomitant with this, non-Latinos will be learning Spanish and helping their children to grow up bilingual so they can take advantage of business opportunities or even because they have a Spanish-speaking spouse.

In the UK, 38% of the population claim they can speak at least one other language well enough to have a ‘basic’ conversation (although whether that is simply the proverbial ‘tres cervezas por favor’ or a bit more is open to debate).  However, one thing we do know is that according to the 2011 census, 120,000 people in the UK, or 0.2% of the population, have Spanish as their first language.  In more general terms, according to a recent Huffington Post article I read, it’s believed that about 4% of the UK population can speak Spanish.  So Lorca students are in a small, but, as we know, highly privileged – and we trust vocal – minority!


Juan Piedra

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay