Learn Spanish as a Second Language
There are many good reasons to learn Spanish as a second language, but one of the most convincing may be its global importance. In fact, with an estimated 427 million native speakers, it is the second most commonly spoken native language in the world, ranking ahead of English and behind only Mandarin.
In addition, it is believed that around 470 million people speak Spanish with native competence, while a total of more than 560 million people speak it as either a first or second language. It is the most popular second language taught in the United States and one of the top five second languages taught in the European Union.
At present, Spanish is recognised as an official language in 20 different countries, with some of the most notable being Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Uruguay and Paraguay. Furthermore, despite not being an official language there, the United States has in excess of 50 million Spanish speakers, making it the second largest Spanish speaking nation on the planet, with only Mexico having more Spanish speakers.
However, more than simply being a widely spoken language with a large geographical spread, Spanish is also extremely influential and important in the modern world. It is recognised as one of only six official languages used by the United Nations and is an official language of both the European Union and the World Trade Organization.
Potential Difficulties in Learning Spanish
Although time and effort is required, Spanish is generally considered to be a fairly easy language for English speakers to learn. With that said, there are some common difficulties that students encounter along the way and the best way to contend with these is to become familiar with them in advance.
One problem Spanish language students encounter is the range of different Spanish dialects, which each have distinct phonological and grammatical features. While they are generally considered to be mutually intelligible, the Spanish spoken in Northern Spain differs from the Spanish spoken in Madrid, which differs again from the variety of Spanish spoken by people living in Mexico. The ‘s’ sound, in particular, differs from one dialect to another.
Another common problem English-speaking students of the Spanish language encounter is confusion over the pronoun for “you”. This is because Spanish has a formal and familiar registers, with different words depending on the register being used. To make things even more confusing, while the formal word for you is “usted”, the word used in the familiar register varies between “tú” and “vos”, depending on the dialect of Spanish being spoken.
Finally, vocabulary can differ quite significantly from one Spanish speaking region to the next. Again, most Spanish speakers will generally understand other regions’ vocabulary, but this can be tricky for those learning it as a second language, and even among native speakers, some Spaniards struggle with certain American Spanish words.
Advantages of Learning Spanish as a Second Language
The high number of speakers, wide global distribution and importance in the worlds of politics, business, music and the internet all make Spanish an extremely useful language to learn. Indeed, it can significantly enhance your employment prospects and improve your ability to communicate when speaking to one of the many Spanish speaking countries in the world. Here are some of the benefits of learning Spanish as a second language:
- It is the second most commonly spoken language in the world, ahead of English;
- A total of 15 percent of all EU citizens speak it as either a first or second language;
- Great job prospects in terms of teaching Spanish to English speakers, or English to Spanish speakers;
- The ability to earn Spanish language certificates, which are often a condition of immigration;
- Spanish is one of the top five most utilised languages on the internet;
Due to its popularity as a second language, students learning Spanish will find no shortage of other learners, with differing levels of competency. This means that, throughout the process of acquiring the language, it will be relatively easy to find people to practice with and ask for help.