Spanish or the story of an intercontinental language
The native language of around 470 million people around the world, and a second language for many more, Spanish is one of the most valuable international languages you can speak. It is hard to imagine that, in the 10th century, Castilian was just one dialect spoken in the North of the Iberian Peninsula, around the Cantabrian Mountains. Its name is derived from Castile, the kingdom where the language developed from Vulgar Latin.
During the Reconquista (722-1492), Castilian spread across most of the Iberian Peninsula, standardised and gradually became the language of Spain. Alphonse X of Castile propelled Castilian to the rank of literary language during the 13th century, although Galician-Portuguese still dominated lyrical literature until the 15th century.
When Antonio de Nebrija wrote the first European grammar for Castilian in 1492, he said in his introduction that “language was always the companion of empire” and, sure enough, Castilian crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the same year. From 1519, conquistadors established Spain’s huge colonial empire overseas and Castilian imposed itself on the immense territories of the New World, spreading from Mexico to Southern Chile. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Golden Age of Spain also saw the triumph of the Spanish language and the novel reached new heights with Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote, the first ever picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes and Mateo Aleman’s Guzman, de Alfarache.
The modern language is often called castellano as opposed to español, particularly in Latin America and regions of Spain with their own languages.
National language: Spain, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Equatorial Guinea. Spanish is also spoken in the Philippines and in the USA, where a growing Hispanic community makes Spanish the second most widely spoken language in the country.
European countries where Spanish is the most widely taught as a foreign language: France, Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark, Luxemburg, Ireland and Germany.
Classification by family:
Indo-European > Latin > Western Romance > Northern Ibero-Romance >Castilian.