Thanks to memes, food, and too much reggaeton on the airwaves, you probably already know a handful of Spanish words. Ever thought of taking a siesta before going out for tapas and mojitos at the fiesta? I bet you have! But is studying Spanish a good use of time and money investment? Sí! Here are the top reasons why you should learn Spanish:
1. 400 million native speakers in 20 countries
Spanish is an official or significant secondary language in 20 countries spread over Europe, Africa, Central, South, and North America, and boasts 400 million plus native speakers. That’s right: apart from Spain and Latin America, Spanish is an official language of Equatorial Guinea and the Western Sahara, and a significant minority language in Gibraltar, Belize, Andorra, and the US.
In fact, in the US, Spanish is very present. While figures vary, it is estimated that the language is spoken by some 45 million residents as either their first or second language. All this gives Spanish the status as one of the world’s most widely-spoken languages.
2. 2nd largest cohort of native speakers
Spanish is the second most commonly spoken native language, losing out only to Chinese, which has over a billion native speakers. Nevertheless, Spanish is far more widely spoken, making it an incredibly useful language to learn.
3. Easy to learn…
Yes, Spanish has gendered nouns, 14 verb tenses, plenty of irregular verbs, and two articles, but, as languages go, it’s considered one of the easiest to achieve a solid base in while you work towards fluency. There are shortcuts to learning Spanish, particularly if your native tongue is also a Romance language. Students who speak French, Italian, and Portuguese will find endless linguistic similarities with Spanish.
Thanks to their Latin roots, English speakers haven’t been left out either: Spanish and English have thousands of cognates (words spelled exactly or nearly the same way, and mostly with the same meaning). Want some examples? Chocolate, capital, flexible, panorama, radio, visual, triple, and tropical are all perfect cognates, and diario/diary, salario/salary, clásico/classic, insécto/insect, and curioso/curious are just a few of the languages’ many near-perfect cognates.
4. …and pronounce
Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning it’s pronounced as it’s written. Of course, there are differences in dialects between regions and countries – but those don’t impede meaning. For example, Latin Americans don’t use the English /th/ sound that Spaniards often use when pronouncing a /z/ or /c/ in words such as cerveza (“thervetha”) and gracias (“grathias”).
In Argentina, words beginning with /ll/ and /y/ are pronounced similar to English /sh/ (for example: yo “sho,” llegar “shegar,” and lluvia “shuvia”) while in Chile second person verb endings are pronounced /ai/ and /i/ as in cómo estái (cómo estás – how are you) and tú querí (tú quieres – you want).
5. Great for literature…
Almost every study abroad student returns home with a love for Cervantes or Gabriel García Marquéz’s “Cien Años de Soledad” – and we absolutely understand why. But there are other noteworthy Spanish language writers to curl up with on a rainy day. Fill your Kindle with the works of Robert Bolaño, Ildefonso Falcones, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Leonora Carrington, and Carmen Martín Gaite to name a few.
6. …and business
The business case for Spanish is also strong. Its status as an official language of the UN, EU, Organization of American States, and the Union of South American Nations allows for major business connections and investments to be formed across the continents.
In the United States, Hispanics are the largest minority group and represent a major percentage of the country’s purchasing power for brands and companies. Across the pond in the UK, it was shown that a lack of language skills and reliance on others to speak English in business interactions cost the U.K. economy around 3.5% of GDP. In fact, the British Council’s Language for the Future report identified Spanish as one of the top five most important languages post-Brexit.
7. Awesome for travel and fun
Think about the countries where Spanish is spoken and all the fun things you could do. Surf Playa Tamarindo in Costa Rica, ski the Pyrenees, hike the Camino de Santiago, or visit some of the world’s most exciting cities, including Buenos Aires, Madrid, Barcelona, and Havana.