In times like the present, in which languages are studied according to the number of potential interlocutors (persons with whom to speak), it can be affirmed that the Spanish language is in good health. I refer to the number of speakers as a criterion, because it is one of the most important when it comes to choosing which foreign language to study. For this reason, nurseries in which Mandarin Chinese is taught have proliferated in recent years.
“When it is spoken by almost 900 million people, then you have to learn it”, this is how those who follow this reasoning think. A criterion that turns its back on minority languages that are closer to Spanish, such as Portuguese – spoken in Portugal and Brazil.
Spanish is a perfect example of a language that increases in number of speakers thanks to the number of students learning Spanish. According to data from the report Spanish: A Living Language by Instituto Cervantes , there are more than 21 million people who study Spanish outside the Hispanic world.
It should also be remembered that there are more than 477 million people who have Spanish as their mother tongue, and Spanish speakers of second and third generation in bilingual and foreign communities whose language is not Spanish but reside in a Spanish-speaking country, the number amounts to more than 570 million. This data places Spanish language as the second mother tongue by number of speakers, only behind Chinese Mandarin.
It is also important to mention that Spanish is the third most used language on the Internet – behind English and Mandarin Chinese – and the second most used on Facebook and Twitter.
According to Internet WorldStats , the number of users who use Spanish on the Web stands at 7.7%, which is a very different figure compared to Chinese (20.8%) and English (26.3%), but one that makes Spanish third.
The same situation is with the number of visits to Wikipedia; according to Wikipedia , its Spanish version is third in number of visits, only surpassed by English and Japanese. If the number of users is analyzed , Spanish ranks second, with 4 750 025, far behind English, which has more than 31 million.
As far as cultural proliferation in Spanish is concerned, the aforementioned report of the Instituto Cervantes contains some interesting data, such as that Spain is the third book-exporting country in the world or that 75% of scientific editions in Spanish is distributed in three areas: social sciences, medical sciences and arts and humanities.
It should also be mentioned that the Spanish language also has a great influence in the world of translation. As stated in the report, “Spanish is the sixth language from which more translations have been made. However, it cannot reach English, which is by far the main language for source texts.
On the other hand, Spanish occupies the third position as a target language of the translations carried out.
BEYOND THE DATA
Based on the data, it can be assumed that the situation of the Spanish language is difficult to improve. However, there are other factors that are also present.
Linguist David Crystal says that in 100 years there will be only one language in the world, and it will be that of the hegemonic power present: English or Chinese. Now 96% of the world’s population speaks 4% of the languages with Spanish enjoying prestige and good health.
Also, according to Fernández Vítores, the Spanish-speaking population will decline, reaching 6.6% of the world’s population – it should be remembered that today the Spanish-speaking population represents 7.8% of the world population.
Consequently, the health of a language is measured not only by its cultural proliferation or economic productivity, but also by its demographic key. For this reason, it is possible that by the year 2100 other languages such as Hindi will be studied more.