How Many People Speak Spanish, And Where Is It Spoken? (2024)

As one of the most spoken languages in the world, Spanish is a popular tongue to learn, as well as to learn about. How many people speak Spanish, exactly? How many Spanish-speaking countries are there, and where is it an official language? We answer these questions and more.

A Brief History Of Spanish

Spanish, like French, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, is a Romance language that evolved from Vulgar (Common) Latin. It originated on the Iberian Peninsula — the southwest corner of Europe which includes present-day Spain and Portugal. The Castilian continuation of Vulgar Latin (from Spain’s Castile region) mixed with the Arabic dialect spoken by the Moors, who conquered parts of the region. After centuries of intermingling, the language formed what became the standardized Spanish language by the 1200s.

Castilian isn’t the only dialect of Spanish in the world, though. The Andalusian dialect of Spanish popped up around the same time, and is still spoken in parts of southern Spain. And later, in the 16th century, Spain built its empire in the Americas and brought their language with them. Today, Spain is home to less than 10 percent of the world’s Spanish speakers.

Where In The World Is Spanish Spoken?

There are many Spanish speaking countries in the world, as Spanish is the official language of the following 20 countries, as well as Puerto Rico: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Although it’s not an official language, Spanish is also commonly spoken in the United States, Belize, Andorra and Gibraltar.

How Many People Speak Spanish In The World?

There are more than 485 million native speakers of Spanish, making it second only to Chinese in terms of the most spoken languages in the world. English is just behind Spanish, with approximately 373 million native speakers. Spanish is the third most studied language in the world, after English and French. In addition to the 485 million native speakers, around 74 million people around the world speak Spanish as a second language.

How Many People Speak Spanish In The U.S.?

In the United States, about 41.7 million people speak Spanish as a first language (about 12.5 percent of the population), and that number continues to grow. Additionally, the United States is home to nearly 15 million people who speak Spanish as a second language. This makes it the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world (after Mexico), but one study predicts the United States will be the largest by 2050.

Americans who don’t already speak Spanish are trying to learn it. Spanish is the most studied language in the U.S. In fact, 50 percent of American college students and more than 70 percent of K-12 students choose to learn Spanish. This is significantly more than the 12 percent of college students and 15 percent of K-12 students who choose French, the second most studied language.

How Many People Speak Spanish In Latin America?

With 122 million native speakers, Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. Spanish is the official language of Mexico, in addition to many countries in Central and South America. Two of the largest Spanish speaking countries in South America are Colombia (about 50 million Spanish speakers) and Argentina (about 45.5 million Spanish speakers). Roughly 60 percent of the Latin American population speaks Spanish. Most of the rest of the residents speak Portuguese (around 34 percent), and a small percentage speak other languages, such as French, English and various Mayan languages.

How Many People Speak Spanish In Europe?

Spain is where the Spanish language originated, so naturally it’s the hub of Spanish speakers in Europe. But with 46.6 million Spanish speakers, Spain has fallen behind the United States, becoming the country with the third-largest Spanish speaking population.

In Europe, Spanish is also widely spoken in Andorra and Gibraltar, but their official languages are Catalan and English, respectively. In Switzerland, about 216,000 people, or 2.4 percent of the population, speak Spanish as well. It’s one of 24 official languages in the European Union, and is also spoken by small pockets of people in other European countries, such as Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

How Many People Speak Spanish In The Rest Of The World?

Although the vast majority of Spanish speakers reside in the Americas and Europe, there are people who speak Spanish in other parts of the world as well. One country that stands out is the Philippines, where Spanish was an official language from the late 16th century until relatively recently. The Philippines were under Spanish rule from 1565 to 1898, but even after the end of the Spanish-American War, it remained a co-official language with English until 1987, when it was designated as an optional language. Today, approximately 3 million Filipinos speak Spanish or Chavacano — a Spanish-based Creole language.

In Africa, Spanish is one of three official languages in Equatorial Guinea, where nearly 68 percent of the population speaks it. Spanish is also spoken in territories in northern Africa controlled by Spain, and in Morocco, which is geographically close to Spain. Finally, there are small communities of Spanish speakers in Angola and South Sudan.

Why Learn Spanish?

Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world, meaning potential opportunities for Spanish learners are abundant. You can learn Spanish for travel, for work or to connect with your neighbors. Plus, it’s one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up.

Note: All language data is sourced from Ethnologue. This article was originally published on April 19, 2017. It has been updated.

How Many People Speak Spanish, And Where Is It Spoken? (2024)


How Many People Speak Spanish, And Where Is It Spoken? ›

Today, it is a global language with about 500 million native speakers, mainly in the Americas and Spain, and about 600 million when including second language speakers.

Where is Spanish mostly spoken in the world? ›

Mexico has the world's largest Spanish speaking-population—by a wide margin—but the US currently has the world's fourth largest Spanish-speaking population, when measuring native Spanish speakers. In fact, the US has 40 times the number of Spanish speakers of any other country where Spanish is not an official language.

What percent of the world speaks Spanish? ›

Total number of Spanish speakers

Native Spanish speakers make up 6.3 percent of the world's population. Spanish speakers in general (including non-native speakers and Spanish language learners) make up 7.5 percent of the world's population. Spanish is the 2nd most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese.

Are there 32 Spanish-speaking countries in the world? ›

There are 21 countries around the world that use Spanish as their official or national language. Additionally, there are 14 countries with over one million Spanish speakers, making Spanish one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world.

Are there more than 40 Spanish speaking countries? ›

Spanish is the official language (either by law or de facto) in 20 sovereign states (including Equatorial Guinea, where it is official but not a native language), one dependent territory, and one partially recognized state, totaling around 442 million people.

What is the top 10 most spoken language in the world? ›

Ethnologue (2024)
LanguageNative speakers (in millions)Branch
Mandarin Chinese941Sinitic
25 more rows

Which are the top 3 states where Spanish is spoken? ›

They form majorities and large minorities in many political districts, especially in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (the American states bordering Mexico), and also in South Florida.

What is the first language in the world? ›

Sumerian was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia and is considered one of the earliest writing systems in history, the cuneiform script, dating back more than 5,000 years. It has survived to today thanks to the clay tablets used for writing.

How hard is Spanish to learn? ›

Is Spanish easy to learn? Yes! Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. While any language requires hard work to master, our language experts sat down and looked at spelling, pronunciation, and grammar and found Spanish to be the easiest option for beginners.

How long does it take to learn Spanish? ›

If you start out as a beginner and manage to spend an average of 1 hour per day working on your Spanish, you should be able to reach conversational fluency within 8 – 12 months. That translates to about 250 – 350 hours spent. But remember that consistency is key here.

What are the top 3 languages in the world? ›

In summary, the most popular languages in the world—be it by the number of native speakers, geographical reach, or global influence—are Chinese, English, and Spanish. While these languages dominate the global stage, the importance of other languages like Arabic, Hindi, and Russian cannot be overlooked.

Which country speaks Spanish the fastest? ›

Chilean Spanish is considered one of the most unique Spanish dialects because it has developed its own distinctive features influenced by the country's geography, history, and culture. One clear example is their slang. They tend to cut words, inhale the letter “s,” and speak extremely fast, running over some syllables.

Which African country speaks Spanish? ›

Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, having become independent from Spain on October 12, 1968, during the eleventh Government of Francisco Franco, as part of the "process of decolonization of Africa", supported by the United Nations.

Is Puerto Rico a Spanish-speaking country? ›

There are 21 countries which state their official language as Spanish: Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Equatorial Guinea.

Where is the best Spanish spoken? ›

Two countries which are recognized for a clearly spoken, standardized accent are Colombia and Costa Rica; while there are indigenous languages spoken by some citizens, the primary language is Spanish.

What country will have more Spanish speakers in 2050? ›

By 2050, 10 percent of the world population will speak Spanish and the United States will be the biggest Spanish-speaking country, the general secretary of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, as reported by the news agency EFE.

What are the 3 largest Spanish-speaking countries by population? ›

Countries with the largest number of native Spanish speakers worldwide in 2022 (in millions)
CharacteristicNumber of speakers in millions
9 more rows
May 24, 2024

Where does Spanish fall in the top 3 languages spoken in the world? ›

Spanish is the world's second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese; the world's fourth-most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu); and the world's most widely spoken Romance language. The country with the largest population of native speakers is Mexico.

Which country speaks Spanish fast? ›

Chilean Spanish is considered one of the most unique Spanish dialects because it has developed its own distinctive features influenced by the country's geography, history, and culture. One clear example is their slang. They tend to cut words, inhale the letter “s,” and speak extremely fast, running over some syllables.

What is the most Spanish-speaking city in the world? ›

According to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments, the population of Greater Mexico City is 21,804,515, which makes it the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the world, the second-largest urban agglomeration in the Western Hemisphere (behind São Paulo, Brazil), and the largest ...

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