Monday, October 15, 2007

Why learn Spanish?

Why choose Spanish as your new foreign Language? why is it important to learn Spanish?

In the United States, whose residents traditionally haven't been eager to learn any language aside from English, more and more native English speakers are making the move to learn another language because of globalization and the increasing importance of being able to communicate with those from other countries. More often than not, the second language they are choosing to learn is Spanish. This is the reason that people who were born and grew up in the U.S. are now studying Spanish in record numbers.

There are many reasons they are choosing Spanish as opposed to another foreign language. Why is it important to learn Spanish?. Spanish is spoken by almost 400 million people worldwide, which is reason enough to learn the language. But it's even more compelling when you realize that about half of the population in 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 (aside from Brazil), as does just about all of Central America, Mexico and Latin America – over 15 countries in total. In addition, within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English – by a very wide margin. In the U.S., more and more, opportunities are increasing for those who are fluent in both Spanish and English due to the explosion in the Spanish-speaking population. This means that the ability to speak both Spanish and English will continue to become more and more valuable to people who live in the U.S. with each passing year.

In addition to in the U.S., Spanish is also gaining importance in Europe, where it is quickly becoming the foreign language of choice after English. It's fairly obvious to see why. First, by learning Spanish fluently you can often understand enough Italian and French to get by in communicating with people who speak those languages. Secondly, overall, Spanish is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world. Aside from English, the other 2 languages ahead of it are generally not widely spoken in either Europe or the Western Hemisphere – they are Chinese and Hindustani which are limited mainly to China and India respectively. So the numbers make learning Spanish a good choice, as well as the fact that as a romance language, Spanish can open the door to many millions of other people who speak one of the other Romance languages. It can enable you to become fluent in those languages in much less time than it would take somebody who is learning their first Romance language, because of the similarities in grammar and vocabulary.

Why it is important to learn Spanish and the facts support choosing Spanish.

Most people who choose to learn Spanish do so because of its popularity, especially in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe. They figure that they are learning a language that will give them practical use – both in their daily lives and in their jobs/professional lives. The facts not only support these feelings, they show by what a wide margin Spanish leads other foreign languages in usage within the Western World. They also show that the gap is widening. The populations are growing in many Spanish-speaking nations around the world, and the Spanish-speaking population within the U.S. is growing as a percentage of the total U.S. population every year. Following are some facts that show just how widespread the Spanish language is in the world, and how projections have it continuing to grow in the near future and beyond.

The World Speaking Spanish

  • As of 1999, Spanish had approximately the same number of native speakers as English (leading English slightly 332 million people to 322 million people). With population growth projections taken into effect, the lead for native speakers of Spanish is even more today, and the lead is only expected to increase further in the coming years. If you include the number of people who are fluent in Spanish as a second language, the total number of Spanish speakers in the world is well over 400 million people. The list of countries where Spanish is either the primary language or the largest secondary language covers 28 different places – Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.
  • Although most of the countries outside of Spain that speak Spanish are located in the Western Hemisphere, there are some notable exceptions. Spanish and French share the role as the official language of Equatorial Guinea (Rep├║blica de Guinea Ecuatoria), making it the only country on the continent of Africa with Spanish as a primary language. However, Morocco and Gibraltar also have many Spanish speakers. In Asia, the Phillipines are the lone representative as far as Spanish-speaking nations. In all, Spanish is the primary language in countries across four different continents.
The U.S. Population Speaking Spanish
  • According to the U.S. Census, the number of Hispanics in the U.S. grew by 57.9% between 1990 and 2000 – from a total of 22.4 million people to a total of 35.3 million people. This figure means the United States has the fifth largest hispanic population worldwide (trailing Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina – just barely behind Spain itself and Argentina). Of this group of over 35 million people, well over 3 out of 4 say that Spanish is their primary language. Within the United States, a total of over 28 million people speak Spanish at some degree of fluency. A few states have a large percentage of these Spanish speakers – California has 5.5 million, Texas has 3.4 million, New York has 1.8 million, and Florida has 1.5 million. In the U.S., the 28 million people who speak Spanish at home is well over half of the approximately 47 million people who speak a language other than English at home, meaning Spanish is spoken by more people than all other languages combined within the U.S.
  • The 35 million hispanics in the U.S. as of 2000 as of 2003 was projected to be close to 40 million people. Moreover, by 2050, the number of hispanics in the U.S is projected to grow exponentially to over 100 million people, which at that point will be about one quarter of the total U.S. population. That’s over triple the 2000 figure in a 50-year span.
Spanish in the Media
  • In the New York City area, the newscast on the Spanish-language Noticias 41 and Noticiero Univision, often have higher ratings than ‘the big three’ network news shows on CBS, NBC and ABC. Approximately 5.8 percent of Internet users speak Spanish, making it the 4th most common language among the Internet community, trailing only English (about 50%), Japanese (about 8%), and German (about 6%). A recent study of 25 metro markets in the U.S. found that Spanish-language programming was the sixth most popular format.
  • It's increasingly difficult to ignore the spread of Spanish in the United States. Bank ATMs offer instructions in Spanish. The Yellow Pages in many cities adds a Spanish-language insert. And Spanish is working its way into everyday use. Is there an American left who can't order fajitas with spicy jalape├▒os using the proper Spanish-accented flair? (Say the J like an H: fah-hee-tas, ...)
Spanish Education / Economic Facts
  • Over the past decade, the demand for Spanish Language courses worldwide has just about doubled. In both the United States and Canada, Spanish is the most popular foreign language to learn. In the U.S. it is the most popular by a very wide margin.
  • As countries in Latin America are strengthening and expanding their economies, they are becoming more important as trading partners. Many countries in Latin America have signed or are on the verge of signing on to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which was originally set up by the United States, Canada and Mexico. This should act to further strengthen trade and business ties between these countries and the U.S. – making the Spanish language an even more important asset for Americans in the business world.