According to the 2019 report from the Instituto Cervantes, more than 580 million people around the world speak the Spanish language. This includes native speakers (483 million) and non-native speakers (97 million).
You might wonder where all these people come from, don’t you?
In this post, we’ll talk about which countries have Spanish as their official language, and which countries Spanish is widely spoken in, even if it’s not their official language.
You might be surprised; Spanish is spoken in countries you probably never thought of!
In which countries Spanish is the official language?
Spanish is today is Spoken in 3 out of the 5 continents of the world. It’s the or an- official language of 20 Countries (excluding Puerto Rico):
The Americas (18 countries):
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Also, Spanish is also an official language of Puerto Rico (US) and Easter Islands (Chile)
Latin America is the region with the biggest population of native Spanish speakers. It has a lot to do with the region’s history. Read our post The Spanish language: history, evolution and influences
Mexico has the greatest number of native speakers in the region (more than 125 million). It is followed by Colombia (almost 50 million), and Argentina (more than 45 million).
Europe (1 country): Spain
Although Spain is where the Spanish language was originated, it is not one of the countries with the greatest number of native speakers (more than 46 million).
Spain accounts for less than 10 percent of the world’s Spanish speakers. It is even behind the United States, which today, has the third-largest Spanish speaking population (Yes! You will see in the next section).
Africa (1 country): Equatorial Guinea.
Did you know that there is still one country in Africa where Spanish is one of the official languages?
Yes, Equatorial Guinea. Nearly 68% of the country’s population speaks Spanish. It has been one of the official languages since 1844 when Spanish settlers established cacao farms.
See below the map of the countries where Spanish is spoken as an official language, and where Spanish has gained popularity as a second language:
Did some of the countries on this map surprise you?
Let us surprise you even more!
Countries where Spanish is not an official language but is still widely spoken
1. The United States
More than 13% of the US population (over 43 million people) speaks Spanish as a first language.
This makes it the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world after Mexico. What is more interesting is that there is a bigger Spanish speaking population in the US than in Spain.
Additionally, the United States is home to nearly 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers.
Americans who don’t already speak Spanish are trying to learn it. Spanish is the most studied language in the U.S.
Here, you can see the map where Spanish is spoken in the United States and Puerto Rico. The darker the green, the higher percentages of Spanish speakers.
According to the US Census Office, it is estimated that 138 million people will speak Spanish by 2050.
This would make it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on Earth, with 30% of the population speaking Spanish as their mother tongue.
The official language in Brazil is Portuguese. Due to its proximity to Spanish speaking countries, and due to the fact that Portuguese is also a Romance language, Spanish is widely spoken in the country.
There are only 460,000 Spanish native speakers in Brazil. However, more than 6 million people speak Spanish as a second or third language.
In the parts of Brazil that border Spanish-speaking countries, you can encounter a pidgin language known as Portuñol, which is a mix between Spanish and Portuguese
Since it was a British colony, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Nonetheless, Spanish is also spoken by more than 50% of the population.
Canada is one of the most diverse and multicultural countries in the world. Its official languages are English and French, and depending on the region one of them is spoken more than the other.
Since there are a large number of immigrants from all around the world, there is also a diversity of languages.
However, Spanish is also gaining popularity as in the rest of the world. According to national reports, Spanish is the most spoken foreign language, almost 1.8 million Canadians speak it.
5. ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)
Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages in the Dutch Antilles. However, its proximity to Central and South America makes Spanish one of the most spoken languages in the islands.
In Aruba, 80% of the population speaks Spanish, while in Bonaire and Curaçao 59% does it.
In Europe, Spanish is the fifth most commonly used language after German, French, English, and Italian.
Besides Spain, these are the European countries with most native speakers: France (9,06%), Portugal (6,98%), Italy (6,56%), Sweden (4,78%), Ireland (3.65%), Denmark (3.29%), and the Netherlands (3.24%)
Other countries important to highlight are:
What it’s most interesting about this country is not only that they have four official languages (i.e. German, French, Italian, and Romansh), but also that Spanish is one of the most popular as a second language. About 150,000 people or 2.3 percent of the population speak the language.
Andorra is the only country in the world with Catalan as an official language. 70% of the population also speaks Spanish due to the immigration of Spanish immigrants between 1955 and 1985.
It is a British overseas territory. English is the official language, it is used by the Government and in schools. However, Most locals speak Spanish because of its proximity to Spain.
Did you know what Morocco was also a Spanish colony?
That’s why now in Morocco still mainly people speak Spanish as a second language. It is spoken mainly in the northern region, also because of its proximity to Spain.
2. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Western Sahara, formerly Spanish Sahara, Spanish was the official language during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, Sahrawi nomads (about 500,000 people) still speak the language.
In 1492 Spain was declared a Catholic nation which resulted in expelling the Spanish speaking Muslims out of the country. Most of them flew to Algeria.
Also, at the end of the Spanish civil war many Republicans had to take up exile and went to Algeria too. That is why still today we can find 200.000 Spanish speakers in the city of Oran.
1. The Philippines
Only one country in Asia stands out for the use of Spanish language, this is the Philippines.
Yes, these islands were also a Spanish colony. They ruled the country from 1565-1898, and Spanish was the official language back then.
Then, at the end of the 19th century, the United States invaded the country. During that time English language was imposed and Spanish forbade.
After the Spanish-American War, Spanish remained as a co-official language until 1987. Since then, it has been designated as an optional language. This is why much of the Spanish language disappeared.
Today, there are some 120 to 187 languages spoken in the Philippines. However, most people speaks English and Tagalog (a mixture of English, Spanish and native languages).
There are also other languages like Bisaya that has many Spanish words. For instance, they use the same words for the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers and the cookware.
And, there is also a language called Chavacano (i.e. Spanish-based Creole), that is very close to Spanish.
Although Spanish is not one of the most spoken languages in Australia, it is interesting to see how the language has also gained popularity during the last years due to the immigration of Spanish and Latin Americans. Spanish is one of the 10 foreign languages spoken in the country
2. Guam Island
This is an island in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the United States. It also stands out for speaking the Spanish language since 36% of the population speaks it.
Did any of the countries on this list surprise you?
Spanish as a second language is growing fast. It is a language of cultural integration, if you learn Spanish you will definitely have a major advantage when visiting all these countries and meet its people.
Plus, it’s one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up.