Spanish is a major world language, with 472 million native speakers across the globe. It enjoys official status in 21 countries, across South, Central and North America, as well as Africa and Europe. Listed by number of native speakers, it is second only to Mandarin Chinese, which means more people speak Spanish than English.
Spanish overtook German as the second-most popular language at GCSE in 2008, and is the only language bucking the downward trend at A-Level. Currently only 4% of the UK’s adult population are able to have a conversation in Spanish. Spanish refers to a collection of Spanish languages, with distinct varieties across peninsular Spain as well as the many varieties of Latin America, although they are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas. After English and Mandarin, Spanish is the third most-used commonly used language on the Internet.
Interpreting: We recently provided language support for a Colombian lady who needed Spanish interpreting throughout her pre-natal scans to post-natal care. We also regularly provide Spanish interpreters to the NHS, the Department for Work and Pensions and more.
History of the Spanish Language
Modern Spanish is known as the language of Cervantes, the Golden Age writer who famously wrote Don Quixote. Peninsular Spanish is known commonly as ‘castellano’ and is the second world language as a vehicle for international communication and third in terms of influence in politics, economics and culture.
Spanish is a Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin. The invasion of the Iberian peninsula by Visigoth and Germanic tribes from Eastern Europe brought with it Roman Catholicism, but although these events influenced the development of the language, the Moorish invasion of Spain around 718 AD had a much greater linguistic impact. During the near-400 year occupation, many of Spain’s residents learnt Arabic and eventually spoke it exclusively.
Over the next several centuries, the Christian kingdoms of the North began a crusade to take back territory claimed by the Moors named the Reconquista. As they moved southwards, they re-established themselves linguistically, culturally and politically. Vulgar Latin was once again the dominant language of the peninsula, although it was evolving and merging with the Castilian dialect. As people began to adopt Castilian, they mixed it with the Arabic of their former rulers, which formed the roots of the current Andalucian dialect. Modern Spanish has at least 4,000 words of Arabic origin.
By the middle of the 13th Century, much of the peninsula had been reclaimed, with one small Moorish enclave surrounding the area of Granada. The reigning monarch, King Alfonso X, began the process of linguistic standardisation based on the Castilian dialect, by decreeing that Castilian be used for all official documents and other administrative work. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile in 1469 helped to bring about the unification of Spain, and in 1492, the Reconquista was complete – they pushed the remaining Moors out of Granada. In that same year, Castilian was made the official language of their kingdom, helped with the publication of the first defined grammar of any European language – Arte de la Lengua Castellana, by Antonio de Nebrija.
Starting with Colombus and the discovery of the New World, Spanish conquistadors, explorers and settlers spread Castilian to Central and Southern America, and opened up the language to further linguistic evolution by merging with indigenous languages.
Castilian remains the basis for Spanish spoken all over the world, but important differences exist, even within Spain. It is the official language of every Latin American country except Brazil and French Guyana. Every country and region has put its mark on the language, whether it be changing words here or there, or using the same words but applying different meanings.
Prestige Network linguists are well versed in manipulating the different varieties of Spanish. Get in touch today and find out how our interpreting or translation services could help your business go far.