Traditionally, the people of the United States are not required to learn a language other than English, but times have changed as more and more native English speakers are moving to learn Spanish. Economic globalization has been the great impetus behind the growing importance of being able to communicate with those in other countries. For obvious reasons, the second language that American citizens choose to learn is Spanish. The modern trend now shows that Americans are learning Spanish in record numbers due to many factors, but more importantly, education in an international setting is becoming a major mandate for the US government because people need to be economically competitive.
Learning this language has many advantages due to its travel opportunities, literature and attraction. For beginners, residents of the United States, a group not known for conquering monolingualism, are learning Spanish in record numbers. Spanish is becoming increasingly important in Europe, where it is often the foreign language of choice after English. And it is not surprising that Spanish is a popular second or third language: with some 400 million speakers, it is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world (after English, Chinese and Hindustani) and, by some estimates, has more native speakers than English do. It is an official language on four continents and is of historical importance elsewhere.
The history of the Spanish language and the origin of the dialects of Spain begin with the linguistic evolution of Vulgar Latin. The Castilian and Andalusian dialects emerged in the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania) during the Middle Ages. The rise of modern Spanish more or less coincided with the reconquest of Moorish Spain which was completed by Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon.
Almost 400 million people around the world speak Spanish. But it’s even more compelling when you realize that roughly half of the population of the Western Hemisphere speaks Spanish, making it the primary language for as many people as English in this region of the world. The entire continent of South America speaks primarily Spanish (apart from Brazil), as does almost all of Central America, Mexico, and Latin America. Furthermore, within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English by a very wide margin. In the US, opportunities for Spanish and English proficient are increasing due to the explosion of the Spanish-speaking population. This means that the ability to speak both Spanish and English will continue to be more and more valuable to people living in the US with each passing year.
As you learn Spanish, you will find that you understand your native vocabulary better. Similarly, both Spanish and English share Indo-European roots, so their grammars are similar. Perhaps there is no more effective way to learn English grammar than by studying the grammar of another language, as studying forces you to think about how your language is structured.
Beginning in the 1400s, Spanish explorers, conquerors, and colonizers brought their language to Central America, South America, and parts of North America.
Both the Castilian and Andalusian dialects made the trip. Spanish was used in administrative and cultural centers such as Mexico City, Mexico, Potosí, Bolivia and Lima, Peru. These cities maintained close ties with the Spanish capital of Madrid, which was in the region of Castilla. But because many of the people involved in the expeditions were from Andalusia, the Andalusian dialect also traveled to the Spanish colonies. It became dominant in Argentina and Central America, which were regions far from the influence of the administrative centers of the Spanish government. Spain lost control of its American colonies in the 19th century, but the Spanish language remained and is now the official language of almost all Latin American nations.
The Spanish spoken in the Americas differs somewhat from today’s European Spanish because many words were borrowed from the languages of indigenous peoples. Most of these words reflect unique characteristics of the new territories, such as proper names, plants and animals, and geographic features.
In reality, the Spanish language is expanding like never before. Not many years ago, the Spanish-speaking population of the United States was confined to the Mexican border states, Florida and New York City, now things have changed and Spanish can be heard everywhere. Learning Spanish is a form of cultural understanding and the key that offers the opportunity to learn how other people learn and think. Spanish also offers a wealth of literature, both modern and traditional.
The Spanish language is also an important tool for learning other languages. If you can learn Spanish, you will have an advantage in learning other Latin-based languages, such as French or Italian. And it will even help you learn Russian and German as they also have Indo-European roots and have some characteristics. And it would not be surprising that learning Spanish helps you learn Japanese or any other non-Indo-European language, since intensive learning of the structure of a language can give you a point of reference to learn others.
On the other hand, it is easy to learn Spanish. Spanish is one of the easiest foreign languages to learn. Much of its vocabulary is similar to that of English, and written Spanish is almost completely phonetic – look at almost any word in Spanish and you can tell how it is pronounced. And while mastering Spanish grammar can be challenging, basic grammar is simple enough that you can have meaningful communication after just a few lessons.
If you are in the United States and work in one of the helping professions, including medicine and education, you will find that your opportunities are expanded by knowing Spanish. And wherever you live, if you have an occupation that involves international trade, communications or tourism, you will also find opportunities to use your new language skills.