As one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet, Spanish is a popular language to learn and study. Current Spanish-speaking countries are found worldwide, including Europe and the Americas and in remote regions like Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and even Polynesia.
Learning how many Spanish speaking countries are there begins with taking a look at the big picture. Around the world, nearly 450 million people speak Spanish as their first language.
A further 75 million or so speak it as a second language. Only Chinese has more native speakers than Spanish, with English coming in third with roughly 360 million.
Where Did Spanish Originate?
Spanish originated on the Iberian Peninsula, which encompasses modern-day Spain and Portugal. Like French, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese, Spanish is a Romance language descended from Vulgar (Common) Latin.
By the 1200s, after centuries of intermingling the Castilian continuation of Vulgar Latin with the Arabic dialect used by the region’s conquering Moors, the language had developed into what is now known as the conventional Spanish language.
Subsequently, in the 16th century, Spain established an empire in the Americas, bringing with them their language. Though the Spanish-speaking countries of the world have Spain to thank for their mother tongue, it now accounts for less than 10% of the world’s Spanish speakers.
How Widespread Is Spanish, and Where Is it spoken?
Spanish is an official language in twenty-one nations and a significant minority language in four more, including the United States. Exploring how many Spanish-speaking countries are there will surely take your imagination for a trip around the world.
Whether you’re just starting with learning Spanish or are already proficient in the essentials, learning how many Spanish countries will yield many opportunities to put your newfound fluency to the test in many exciting and unique settings. Let’s take a quick peek at all 21 places that speak Spanish:
The United States of Mexico is bound to pop up first on the list when studying how many Spanish-speaking countries are there. Mexico is one of the most stunningly beautiful Spanish-speaking countries on the planet.
With a population of nearly 135 million, it is the world’s most populous of all Spanish-speaking countries. Mexico is known for its vibrant cuisine and its music, rich culture, and people.
Colombia is a fascinating South American country and is home to more than 49 million people. Its capital city is named Bogotá, which is Spanish for “planted fields.”
This gorgeous South American country produces some of the world’s finest coffee beans. If you haven’t had Colombian coffee before, you’re missing out. Like its vibrant language, Columbia’s many high-energy dances are practiced all over the globe, Cumbia and Bachata being their most famous.
Spain is referred to in Spanish as España. Today Spanish is a common vernacular throughout the world due to the Spanish Empire’s early influence. For this, Spain gets a special spot on our list of how many Spanish-speaking countries are there.
Did you know Argentina’s name is derived from the precious metal silver? There are no other countries named after metals on the planet. Argentina is the world’s eighth-largest country and the second-largest in Latin America.
Lima is Peru’s capital city. More than 31 million people call Peru home. Did you know that Peruvian cuisine is considered to be one of the most delectable in the world? Peru brought us delicacies such as ceviche, Pollo a la Brasa, and Aji de gallina.
Peru is one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations because of its rich history. Machu Picchu, an ancient Lost City in the Peruvian Andes, is a famous destination.
Early colonists introduced Spanish in Venezuela and designated Castilian (another term for Spanish) as the country’s official language. Most of them were from Andalusia or the Canary Islands. Venezuela’s capital city is Caracas, and the country in total has a population of somewhat more than 29 million people.
Chile, the world’s longest country, is extremely long and narrow. Chile has a population of almost 18 million people, and the capital city is Santiago. It is a land of contrasting landscapes, with the Atacama Desert to the north and lush green mountains and dense forest to the south.
Not many people know that Easter Island, which is famous for its ancient, colossal sculptures, is also a part of Chile. This inclusion is an important fact to remember when asking, “how many Spanish-speaking countries are there?”
Ecuador’s capital city is Quito. This South American nation is a beautiful country with a population of around 17 million people. A few miles north of Quito lies a magnificent and dazzling memorial. It’s one of the equator’s most defining characteristics: the equator line.
The world-famous Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador. These islands are home to some of the most exquisite vegetation and fauna on the planet.
Guatemala City is this country’s capital and is recognized as one of the greatest locations for language immersion by Spanish students. The name Guatemala derives from the Spanish term for “country of countless trees.”
The country’s population is somewhat more than 17 million at the moment. Did you know Guatemala is credited with inventing instant coffee and the very first chocolate bars? Guatemala is famous for its towering volcanoes, deep rain forests, and ancient Mayan monuments.
Let’s continue our list of how many Spanish-speaking countries are there with Cuba. Officially named the Republic of Cuba, it is the Caribbean’s largest island. From the air, Cuba resembles a crocodile or alligator and so is frequently referred to as “El Cocodrilo” or “El Caiman” in Spanish.
Cuba is famed for its unique music, which is heard throughout the country, including the capital, Havana. The island is home to more than 11 million people.
Bolivia is the most isolated republic in Latin America. It also enjoys the distinction of being one of the wettest countries on Earth, with an annual rainfall exceeding 5000 mm.
Lake Titicaca, the world’s tallest and deepest navigable lake, is located near Bolivia’s eastern border. La Paz is Bolivia’s capital and is the world’s highest situated capital city, at an elevation of around 12,000 feet.
12. The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the Americas’ oldest country, after being founded by Spanish explorers in 1492. The Dominican Republic’s central region is mountainous, with rich valleys.
It became the site of the Americas’ first permanent European settlements. Santo Domingo is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and the first seat of power for Spanish Colonial rule in the New World. The country’s current population is a little more than ten million people.
On the Honduran national flag, the five stars represent the five Central American countries. It is perfectly typical to come across Spanish-speaking Hondurans with blond hair and blue eyes throughout the Bay Islands.
They are direct ancestors of the British pirates who inhabited the area more than 500 years ago. Tegucigalpa is the capital city, and the country’s population is over 9 million.
Paraguay’s motto is “paz y justicia” or “peace and justice” in English. Due to Paraguay’s central location in South America, it is endearingly nicknamed the heart of South America.
15. El Salvador
El Salvador, dubbed the “Volcano Country,” is the smallest country in Central America. The indigenous people of El Salvador are referred to as the Maya. El Salvador is also well-known for its stunning beaches and internationally renowned surfing events.
Lake Nicaragua is the world’s only freshwater lake that contains oceanic fish such as sharks and rare fish species not found anywhere else. The lake was formerly a bay of the Eastern Pacific Ocean but was cut off from the ocean by volcanic activity. Over 6 million people call Nicaragua their home.
17. Costa Rica
Costa Rica (meaning “rich coast”) has a Spanish-speaking population of 5 million people. If over 60 dormant volcanoes aren’t enough to entice you to visit Costa Rica, perhaps their world-class resorts and delicious food will.
Costa Rica also contains 27 national parks and is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity. There are around 500,000 distinct types of wildlife there, including chimps, iguanas, and butterflies. You should also try some Costa Rican coffee, which is often regarded as being among the greatest in the world.
18. Republic of Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the official name of this island. In 1892, the United States acquired Puerto Rico as a territory following the Spanish-American War. San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, oversees a total population of nearly three million.
Next on our list of how many Spanish-speaking countries are there, we have Panama. Panama is Central America’s southernmost country, bordering Costa Rica to the north and Columbia to the south.
It is the only country on Earth where you can watch the sun rise over the Pacific and set over the Atlantic. Panama currently has a population of over 4 million residents.
Uruguay derives its name from the Uruguay River, which translates as “River of the Painted Birds.” The river originates in Brazil and flows through Argentina.
Did you know that Uruguayans self-identify as orientals or “Easterners”? They do so due to their official location east of the Uruguay River. Uruguay’s formal title is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. Uruguay is South America’s second smallest country, after Serena.
21. Equatorial Guinea
Of all Spanish-speaking countries, Equatorial Guinea is probably the one that most surprises people due to the fact that it’s in Africa. Indeed, it is Africa’s only country with Spanish as an official language.
Spanish has remained a strong language in the country due to Spain’s early influence. Between 1778 and 1810, and then from 1844 to 1968, it was a Spanish colony.
How Many People in the United States Speak Spanish?
In the United States, about 43 million individuals (around 13% of the population) speak Spanish as a first language, and that figure continues to grow. Additionally, nearly 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers live in the United States.
This population places the United States as the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country (after Mexico), but according to one study, the United States will overtake Mexico by 2040.
More Americans who do not yet speak Spanish are attempting to acquire the language. Spanish is the most frequently studied language in the U.S. Indeed, 50% of college students in the United States and more than 70% of K-12 pupils prefer to learn Spanish.
This segment is much greater than the 12% of college students and 15% of K-12 pupils who select French as their second language of study.
Numerous states and cities in the United States have Spanish names, including Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, and California. Spanish has a lengthy history in the United States.
Did you know that Spanish was first spoken in the United States before English? That is correct. People already spoke Spanish in 1565, several years before English arrived. The United States is now considered to have more Spanish speakers than Spain, where Spanish originated.
Why Should We Learn Spanish?
Learning how many Spanish-speaking countries are there will open the doors to whole new experiences. You can learn Spanish for a variety of reasons, including travel, socializing, or boosting your career. For native English speakers, it is also one of the simplest languages to pick up.
As the second most widely spoken native language globally, there are numerous opportunities for Spanish learners.