Geographic Distribution

Spanish is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the European Union. The majority of its speakers are confined to the Western Hemisphere, Europe and the Spanish territories in Africa (Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla).

With approximately 106 million first-language and second-language speakers, Mexico boasts the largest population of Spanish-speakers in the world. The four next largest populations reside in Colombia (44 million), Spain (c. 44 million),

Spanish Geographic Distribution
Argentina (39 million) and the United States of America (c. 30 million), where it is not an official language (as the US has no national official language) but is widely spoken in immigrant communities.

Spanish is the official and most important language in 20 countries: Argentina, Bolivia (co-official Quechua and Aymará), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea (co-official French), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay (co-official Guaraní), Peru (co-official Quechua and Aymara), Puerto Rico (co-official English), Spain (co-official Catalan/Valencian, Galician and Basque), Uruguay, Venezuela, and Western Sahara (co-official Arabic).

It is an important and widely-spoken language, but without official recognition, in Andorra, Belize and the United States.

It is spoken by much of the population of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar (which is also claimed by Spain), though English remains the only official language, and the people overwhelmingly want to remain British. Yanito, an English-Spanish mixed language is also spoken.

In the United States, Spanish is spoken by three-quarters of its 41.3 million Hispanic population. It is also being learned and spoken by a small, though slowly growing, proportion of its non- Hispanic population for its increasing use in business, commerce, and both domestic and international politics. Spanish does hold co-official status in the state of New Mexico, and in the unincorporated U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

In Brazil , where virtually the entire population speaks Portuguese, Spanish has obtained an important status as a second language among young students and many skilled professionals. In recent years, with Brazil decreasing its reliance on trade with the USA and Europe and increasing trade and ties with its Spanish-speaking neighbours (especially as a member of the Mercosur trading bloc), much stress has been placed on bilingualism and Spanish proficiency in the country. The close genetic relationship between the two languages, along with the fact that Spanish is the dominant and official language of almost every country that borders Brazil, adds to the popularity.

Spanish is also spoken by segments of the populations in Aruba, Canada, Israel (both standard Spanish and Ladino), northern Morocco (both standard Spanish and Ladino), Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey (Ladino), the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara.

In Europe an countries other than Spain, it may be spoken by some of their Spanish-speaking immigrant communities, primarily in Andorra, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom where there is a strong community in London. There has been a sharp increase in the popularity of Spanish in the UK over the last few years.

Among the countries and territories in Oceania, Spanish is the seventh most spoken language after English in Australia, where in the 2001 Australian Census, of the persons who reported they spoke a language other than English at home, around 97,000 reported Spanish. It is also spoken by the approximately 3,000 inhabitants of Easter Island, a territorial possession of Chile. The island nations of Guam, Palau, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia all once had Spanish speakers, but Spanish has long since been forgotten, and now only exists as an influence on the local native languages.

In Asia the Spanish language has long been in decline. Spanish ceased to be an official language of the Philippines in 1987, and it is now spoken by less than 0.01% of the population; 2,658 speakers (1990 Census). However, the sole existing Spanish-Asiatic creole language, Chabacano, is also spoken by an additional 0.4% of the Filipino population; 292,630 (1990 census). Most other Philippine languages contain generous quantities of Spanish loan words. Among other Asian countries, Spanish may also be spoken by pockets of ex-immigrant communities, such as Mexican-born ethnic Chinese deported to China or third and fourth generation ethnic Japanese Peruvians returning to their ancestral homeland of Japan.

In the Antarctic, the territorial claims and permanent bases made by Argentina, Chile, Peru and Spain also place Spanish as the official and working language of these enclaves.


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