This is the Spanish Boom: it’s the official language of 20 countries worldwide. As of today, it counts 470 million native speakers and an additional 90 million learning it as a second language. And no, we are not talking about English, Mandarin or Arabic.
With millions of fluent speakers, Spanish was largely overlooked by the international community during the 20th century. Its close rival, French, has been preferred in diplomatic use, while German, with far fewer speakers, beats it in the number of patents filed. However, many predict our century will see a huge rise in Spanish speakers around the world.
But is it just because of Latin America?
While it was previously the third most spoken language in the world, behind Mandarin and English, Spanish overthrew English around 2012 and is now on a comfortable second place. Such a change cannot, of course, be blamed solely on the number of native speakers. As of today, Spanish is competing with English for cultural influence in both mainstream and more culturally-demanding audiences.
Soap operas and music have long been a popular export from Latin America. In fact, in the United States, Hispanic networks often top English-speaking ones in ratings. And when you come to think of dance competitions, give or take a waltz or two, what do you find? Mambo, merengue, cha-cha-chá, bolero, rumba, tango, salsa.
At the same time, acclaimed writers such as Julio Cortázar and Roberto Bolaño, along with nobel laureates Pablo Neruda (Chile), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Gabriel García Marquez (Colombia), Camilo Jose Cela (Spain) and Mario Vargas LLosa (Peru), caused what was called a ‘boom’ in Latin American literature, making it increasingly more appealing and appreciated within educated, cultured circles.
The result is a growing number of Spanish students in universities. Traditionally studied in countries such as the United States, Brazil and France, all of whom border the Hispanophone world, it is now learnt in far-off countries like China, where 25.000 students are currently enrolled in Spanish classes throughout 90 universities, or Japan, where 240 universities now offer programmes in Spanish. As a second language, its use is only expected to grow.
And here’s the biggest Spanish boom!
This might surprise you, but, by 2050, the United States will have more Spanish speakers than any other country. As of 2016, it is right behind Mexico - already surpassing Spain itself and Colombia. Los Angeles, for example, has the second biggest Spanish-speaking community in the world. Recruitment agencies also report that Spanish is the most sought for language by American employers.
Unlike German or Polish, that are rarely spoken by second generation migrants, Spanish is understood by most Latinos. Although the consumption of English media is on the rise in younger generations, an overwhelming 95% of Hispanics consider important that future generations speak Spanish as a way to preserve their unique traditions and cultural background.
So, what are you waiting for? Bring your salero and join the Spanish fiesta and ride the spanish boom!
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