But where Spanish really packs a punch is in the number of Spanish speaking countries that use it as their official language. Currently, 20 countries around the world use Spanish as their official tongue. That is quite impressive and great motivation to find out how to learn Spanish!
Impressive as that may seem, English, with 59, tops the chart of languages with the highest number of countries using it as their official language. French — spoken by 29 countries — and Arabic — spoken by 27 — complete the top 3 ahead of Spanish.
So, what does ‘official language’ mean? According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, it refers to “the language or one of the languages that is accepted by a country’s government, is taught in schools, used in the courts of law, etc.”
Countries can, therefore, have more than one official language, as is the case in Canada where both French and English have been official languages since the first Official Languages Act was enacted in 1969.
Bolivia, however, takes official languages to the extreme with a whopping 39 registered languages, giving primacy to Spanish.
The country’s high count of official languages is mainly due to its diverse range of indigenous languages which they seek to acknowledge and strive to preserve.
Here is a full list, in alphabetical order, of the 20 countries where Spanish is the official language, along with their capital cities.
If you want to up your general knowledge, or boss the Geography questions in Trivial Pursuit then this one’s for you.
Note that alongside the countries the respective Academy of Language is listed where applicable.
These Academies form part of the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (ASALE) or Association of the Spanish Language Academies, founded in 1951.
The association’s purpose is to maintain the integrity, diffusion and growth of the Spanish language.
|Country||Capital City||Academy of Language|
|Argentina||Buenos aires||Academia Argentina de Letras|
|Bolivia||Sucre||Academia Boliviana de la Lengua|
|Chile||Santiago||Academia Chilena de la Lengua|
|Colombia||Bogotá||Academia Colombiana de la Lengua|
|Costa Rica||San José||Academia Costarricense de la Lengua|
|Cuba||Havana||Academia Cubana de la Lengua|
|Dominican Republic||Santo Domingo||Academia Dominicana de la Lengua|
|Ecuador||Quito||Academia Ecuatoriana de la Lengua|
|El Salvador||El Salvador||Academia Salvadoreña de la Lengua|
|Equatorial Guinea||Malabo||Academia Ecuatoguineana de la Lengua Española|
|Guatemala||Guatemala City||Academia Guatemalteca de la Lengua|
|Honduras||Tegucigalpa||Academia Hondureña de la Lengua|
|Mexico||Mexico City||Academia Mexicana de la Lengua|
|Nicaragua||Managua||Academia Nicaragüense de la Lengua|
|Panama||Panama City||Academia Panameña de la Lengua|
|Paraguay||Asunción||Academia Paraguaya de la Lengua Española|
|Peru||Lima||Academia Peruana de la Lengua|
|Spain||Madrid||Real Academia Española|
|Uruguay||Montevideo||Academia Nacional de Letras de Uruguay|
|Venezuela||Caracas||Academia Venezolana de la Lengua|
Equatorial Guinea, huh?
Yes, you did read that right! Equatorial Guinea is the only country on the continent of Africa that has Spanish as their official language.
In addition to this small part of Africa, and of course Spain, Spanish will open the door to Hispanic America.
This consists of Mexico, the whole of Central America (excluding Belize), and the great majority of the South American continent, with the exception of Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana.
Hispanic America and other similar terms, which are often confused or unclear, are defined below with the Spanish equivalent:
Hispanic America – Hispanoamérica:
This refers to the collective of Spanish Speaking nations within the Americas. Hispanoamérica in Spanish, also known as América Hispana o América Española. It is usually seen as an assemblage of the old Spanish colonies.
Latin America – Latinoamérica:
This refers to the group of territories within the Americas that predominantly speak romance languages, such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese.Latinoamérica in Spanish, also known as América Latina.
Iberoamerica – Iberoamérica:
This refers to a region in the Americas which comprises countries and territories where Spanish or Portuguese are predominant languages. These are usually former territories of Spain and Portugal.
So it is equivalent to Hispanic America with the inclusion of Brazil. Iberoamérica in Spanish.
Spanish is a romance language derived from Latin. It is also known as Castilian because it originated from a dialect spoken in ‘Castilla’, Spain.
It was quickly spread through the whole of what is now Spain and then taken to the New World during the conquest. The below map, courtesy of StepMap, shows each of the official Spanish-speaking countries:
Finally, apart from these 20 countries there are other places where Spanish is spoken by a large percentage of the local population, yet Spanish is not in their list of official languages. Such territories include Belize, Puerto Rico, Andorra, and The Republic of the Philippines.
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