The Spanish language is prominent throughout the world. In fact, the number of Spanish speakers makes it the fourth most spoken language in the world. There are 21 countries that claim Spanish as their official language.
This means that approximately 572 million individuals speak Spanish around the globe.
While you may be able to quickly identify a number of these countries, you may be surprised to learn about some of the others. If you include countries where Spanish is not the official national language but is still widely spoken, the number grows to 25 nations.
Mexico is the only North American country where Spanish is the official national language. It’s also the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
In Mexico, there are 124 million Spanish speakers.
While Spanish is not an official national language in the United States, there are many citizens who speak the language. This makes the United States the largest concentration of Spanish speakers outside of Mexico.
Today in the United States, there are about 41 million native Spanish speakers. Beyond that figure, there are 11 million people that are bilingual in America.
This Spanish-speaking population is larger than many other countries where Spanish is an official national language. These include Spain, Columbia, and Argentina.
Beyond North America, you may be interested to learn about the other countries where Spanish is the predominant language. We’ll divide these countries into their different geographic locations.
Table of Contents
- South American Spanish-speaking Countries
- Central American Spanish-speaking Countries
- Caribbean Spanish-speaking Countries
- European Spanish-speaking Countries
- African Spanish-speaking Countries
- The Development of Spanish-speaking Communities in Many Countries
- Indigenous Languages Today
- Spain’s Conquest of Latin America
- Spanish in the Philippines
- The Broad Spread of the Spanish Language
- The Spanish Language in the United States
- An Interesting Fact
- Continued Development of the Spanish Language
If you mention Spanish-speaking countries, most people will identify Mexico and nations in South America. Nine counties in South America recognize Spanish as the official language.
This is out of a total of 13 countries.
These nine South American Spanish-speaking countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. So, what about those South American countries where Spanish is not an official language?
These include Brazil (Portuguese), French Guiana (French), Suriname (Dutch), and Guyana (English).
Moving north, there are six countries in Central America where Spanish is the official language. This is out of seven countries in the region.
The Central American countries where Spanish is an official national language include, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
It should be noted that the remaining country, Belize, is officially an English-speaking country. This is due to their history as a former British colony when the country was known as British Honduras.
The nation remains a part of the British Commonwealth. As the country is a cultural crossroads, Spanish, Kriol, and Chinese are other prominent languages that are spoken there.
Throughout the Caribbean, many countries have Spanish speakers. However, only three have Spanish as an official national language.
This is out of 13 island nations and territories. These Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico can be debated because it is officially a United States territory. The territory, however, maintains its own unique sense of national identity.
Many other languages are spoken throughout the Caribbean islands. These include English, French, Dutch, and Haitian Creole.
In Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (The ABC Islands), the official language is Papiamento. Papiamento is a Creole language based on Spanish and Portuguese.
This is an easy question because there is only one European country that identifies Spanish as its official national language: Spain. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other countries where Spanish is widely spoken.
Two other European countries have large Spanish-speaking populations. Andorra is a small state that lies between Spain and France. Spanish is widely spoken there.
Gibraltar is another one. This small territory lies on the Iberian Peninsula. It is a British territory overseas where Spanish is also widely spoken.
You may not think of Africa when you consider Spanish-speaking countries, but you’d be wrong not to. One African country, Equatorial Guinea, identifies Spanish as one of their official national languages.
The other official languages include French and Portuguese.
Morocco is another country where you will find Spanish being spoken widely. This is due to the country’s close proximity and ties with Spain.
It’s easy to see that in North America, there is only one country with Spanish as the official national language, and Mexico has a large Spanish-speaking population.
Its proximity to the United States and migrations of the populations have created a large Spanish-speaking population in the states as well.
But that begs the question of why and how so many countries around the world developed to include Spanish as an official national language. The simple answer is colonization.
Particularly, the colonization that began in the 15th century in the Americas.
As early as 1492, the Spanish began coming to North and South America to occupy land and develop territories. As they moved, they brought their own language, religion, and culture.
This created a shift change for indigenous peoples that had developed civilizations with distinct culture and language traditions.
Today, there are two other prominent languages in Mexico. This is the Mayan language spoken in Yucatán. The other is Nahuatl, an Aztec language.
Fortunately, these languages have survived by being passed down through the generations. The intrusion of the Spanish created resentment regarding religious, cultural, and language traditions and made it difficult for these cultures to survive.
Many communities secretly held on to their traditions despite the Spanish demands for conformity.
For the next three centuries, the Spanish continued to conquer and develop many of the lands throughout Latin America. While the majority of people in Hispanic Latin America still only speak Spanish, there are areas where indigenous languages and traditions are still preserved.
Another area where the Spanish built colonies and impacted the local communities is the Philippines. As a Spanish colony, the Philippines was under Spanish rule until 1898.
During the Spanish rule of the Philippines, Spanish was the official national language. While Spanish rule only lasted until 1898, Spanish remained an official language until 1987.
While the Philippines are no longer a Spanish colony, the language is widely spoken. Also, many indigenous languages in the Philippines borrow Spanish words and incorporate them.
Tagalog, for instance, is spoken by many Filipinos. This language borrows approximately 4,000 Spanish words. In Tagalog, you may hear words like “adobo” which is distinctly Spanish.
While the Spanish language has flourished in many nations around the world, most people would find it tough to name them all. However, back to our original question of, “What are the Spanish Speaking Countries of North America?”, the answer is simple, Mexico.
Now that you understand that Spanish is spoken more widely than just the nation of Mexico, you’ll have more places to travel to. This will give you a chance to experience different facets of Spanish culture and language.
While many people learn Spanish or develop their skills with the intent to travel, it’s easy to see that there are many places around the world where one can soak up the language and culture beyond North America.
With 572 million people around the world speaking Spanish as their everyday language, it’s easy to see how the language was preserved and morphed into a dynamic, modern language that represents today’s cultural experiences.
In the United States, Hispanics comprise 18% of the population. This is anticipated to continue growing. By 2060, it is projected that this number will grow to 28% according to the United States Census Bureau.
It is also estimated that by 2050, the United States will have significantly more Spanish speakers than Mexico. This will make the United States the country with the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world.
The Spanish language brought over by the Spaniards comes from a spoken Latin dialect. It is believed that during the Second Punic Wars, the Romans brought this language to the Iberian Peninsula.
This was in 218 BC. Following the war, the language took root on the peninsula and continued to evolve.
While many areas – such as the Yucatán in Mexico – worked hard to preserve the indigenous language and culture despite the influx of Spanish, in these types of areas, it is possible to study Spanish while you are traveling in the country.
In addition, it is possible to take classes in indigenous languages to increase your understanding of them. Today, though, the Spanish language continues to evolve.
This is much like we see with English where idioms and slang terms are incorporated into the mainstream language.
Whatever your reasons for understanding the Spanish language, it is evident that it is a rich language that represents a deep culture around the world. With so many individuals being either native Spanish speakers or bilingual ones, there is no doubt that the language will continue to grow in Mexico, the United States, and other countries.
The Spanish language in Mexico and in other countries is imbued with a deep history and tradition. These are to be respected and honored.
Exploring these topics and developing an understanding of them may also help you to develop a deeper appreciation for the culture of your neighbor.
While the answer to our question may be a simple one, it’s easy to see that the language is rich and shared by many people around the globe. Exploring a language can provide a deeper insight into the cultures of many peoples around the world.
Spanish is no different.
While you may want to explore the many Spanish-speaking countries of the world, you should remember that Mexico is the only country in North America that has Spanish as its official national language. It’s very close to the United States and welcomes visitors eager to learn the language and delve into the culture.
In the end, you’ll have experiences you can’t get anywhere else. That is what understanding the dominance of a language and culture is all about.
Even if you can’t travel right now, there are many places and people in the United States who share their native culture, language, and cuisine. This is a great way to develop new friendships, experience new foods, and develop an understanding of how the Spanish language works in a variety of cultures.
Travel the world from your own backyard by eating Spanish foods and developing your Spanish language skills. As you can see, if you travel anywhere in this world, those skills will come in handy, particularly in North America.