Spanish Language History

The lingua franca of 21 countries

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world, surpassed only by Mandarin Chinese. It is a Romance language with approximately 500 million speakers. Between 322 to 358 million speak it as their first language, while the rest gained it as a second language. Yet around 21 million people are learning Spanish as a foreign language at varying levels of fluency.

A total of 43 countries speak Spanish as native and non-native speakers. However, it is the lingua franca of 21 countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. It is no wonder that the demand for Spanish translations is higher than ever.

Moreover, most of the American population knows how to speak enough Spanish to communicate with their fellow citizens. The Spanish language is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is also the official language of several other international organisations, including the European Union and the African Union.

The Spanish language is the language of many renowned personalities, including Garcia Márquez and Picasso. Castilian or Castellano, or Peninsular Spanish originated from the Castile region in Spain. With that said, there are certainly significant differences between Latin America Spanish and Castilian Spanish. The key differences between these two dialects include verb conjugations and personal pronouns. Speakers of these two Spanish language dialects can still communicate with one another.

Origins & Roots of the Spanish Language

The history of the Spanish language is long and interesting. Classified as a Western Romance language, the Spanish language is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. It developed from the same branch that includes several other modern languages, including French and Italian.

The roots of Spanish history go back to Vulgar Latin. Vulgar Latin was the name given to the dialects spoken by farmers, traders, and soldiers in the Roman army. Unsurprisingly, Vulgar Latin and other languages differences happened from geographical variations in pronunciation Native speakers of the Latin language, however, still understood speakers of Vulgar Latin despite these differences.

The demise of the Western Empire in the 5th century caused these regional differences to slowly fade away. Its demise gave birth to the Romance languages. With that said, we can’t pinpoint with complete accuracy the exact year when these languages emerged.

Inscriptions as early as the 10th century began exhibiting features of the Romance language family, marking the first sign of Spanish history. But the first texts that clearly displayed features of the Spanish language did not appear until the 12th century. Since a vernacular writing system needed to be developed for the Romance language, standardisation took a significant amount of time.


King Alfonso X

King Alfonso X gets credit for making the Spanish language standard based on the Castilian dialect. People, at that time, called him the Learned King of Castile and Leon. King Alfonso X gathered groups of scholars who wrote in Castilian. These scholars would then translate several important texts, including histories and scientific works.

The Spanish language first appeared in writing in Latin religious texts in the 11th century. Spanish prose flowered during the reign of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile (1252-84). They discovered the first Spanish grammar and first dictionaries during the 15th and 16th centuries. Spanish uses the Latin alphabet and has 27 letters and 2 digraphs.

Spanish history expanded with the Spanish conquests of the Americas beginning in the 1400s. These conquests contributed to the spread of the Spanish language to these continents. Spain lost control of most of the conquered regions in the 1800s. The Spanish language, however, remained and continued to grow in popularity. Spanish also remains the official language of several countries in the region, and it is widely understood by many more.

Spanish Translation Services

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