Language Facts

Facts

Official Language:

Spain, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, all the South American republics except Brazil and Guyana

Common 2nd language of:

Parts of USA (Texas, Arizona, California, Miami) parts of Morocco and the west coast of Africa

Number of speakers:

320 million

Origin:

Romance language (roots in Latin) Influence from the Moors who invaded. In the 15th Century, Castilian became the most common dialect

Alphabet & Scripts:

Roman alphabet

History of the Language:

The Rise of Castilian:

In the 7th century the regions to the north of Spain which had not been conquered during the Moorish invasion, saw the formation of Christian kingdoms which began to expand southwards and set the Reconquista in motion.

Present day Spanish:

Spanish is the most widely spoken of the Romance languages, both in terms of number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is the dominant language. It is the mother tongue of some 320 million people scattered throughout the world – in the Iberian Peninsula, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, in parts of Morocco and the west coast of Africa.

It is the official language of all the South American republics, with the exception of Brazil and Guyana. Naturally the Spanish spoken in all these places appears in many varieties. In fact the differences between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish are equivalent to those between British English and American English.

The Spanish vocabulary is of Latin origin, though many of the words differ markedly from their counterparts in French and Italian. Prolonged contact with Germanic and later Arabic affected its evolution but did not risk the decrease in Romance speaking. Germanic and Arabic have left their mark on the Spanish language as words like 'guerra' – war and 'algebra' – maths can both be traced back to their respective Germanic and Arabic origins.

Latin American Spanish:

When the Spaniards 'discovered' and colonised the Americas, the language of Spain was still undergoing change. It was the language of Castile (land of castles) which was destined to become not only the chief language of Spain, but also of the Latin American Republics.

As to be expected, the indigenous inhabitants of Latin America exerted a great influence on the Castilian language and differences between the two types of Spanish began to emerge. This was mainly due to the diminishing contact between Latin America and Spain, coupled with the languages used by the inhabitants of Latin America.

The influence of American English in the North of the region also took its toll; words were absorbed with a Spanish pronunciation which was based solely on what was heard with no regard for the correct spelling, for example 'boila' (boiler) and 'mechas' (matches)!

There are many factors that are attributable to the birth of the Latin American Spanish language but it is important to realise that it was a slow and gradual process. Although there are differences between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish – particularly relating to pronunciation – they do not prevent mutual intelligibility.

The differences between these two languages are equivalent to those between British English and American English.

Languages - Castilian Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%

Capital - Madrid

Other main cities - Barcelona, Valencia, Seville

Area (km²) - 504,750

Population - 39,996,671

Currency - Euro

History of Spain

Spain occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, in southwestern Europe. Off Spain's east coast in the Mediterranean are the Balearic Islands whilst 97 km west of Africa are the Canary Islands.

Spain, originally inhabited by Celts, Iberians, and Basques, became a part of the Roman Empire in 206 B.C. Invaded by Visigoths in A.D. 412 and Muslims in 711, a steady Christian conquest began in the middle 8th century.

The last Muslim stronghold, Granada, fell in 1492 and Roman Catholicism was established as the official state religion. Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire through the conquest of Peru and Mexico in the 16th century, but after the destruction of the Armada sent against England, Spain's status sank rapidly.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) resulted in the loss of Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia, and Naples and its colonies in the Americas and the Philippines vanished in wars and revolutions during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Neutral in World War I, General Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator in 1923. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong antimonarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931.

The new constitution declared Spain a workers' republic, broke up the large estates, separated church and state, and secularized the schools. The elections held in 1936 returned a strong Popular Front majority, with Manuel Azaña as president.

On July 18, 1936, Francisco Franco Bahamonde led a mutiny against the government. The civil war that followed lasted three years and cost the lives of nearly a million people. Franco took Madrid on March 28, 1939 and became head of state. A referendum in 1947 approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again, but Franco continued as chief of state.

In 1969, Franco and the Cortes designated Prince Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón heir to the kingdom of Spain when Franco's government came to an end. Franco died in 1975 and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king seven days later.

The Catalonia and Basque regions were granted home rule in 1979.

With the overwhelming election of Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez and his Spanish Socialist Workers Party in the 1982 parliamentary elections, the Franco past was finally buried.

Spain entered NATO in 1982 and a treaty admitting Spain, along with Portugal, to the EEC, now the EU, took effect on January 1, 1986.

In March 2000, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the center-right People's Party won easily in the general election.

Spanish speaking countries - Chile

Capital - Santiago

Other main cities - Concepción, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso Talcahuano, Temuco

Area (km²) - 756,950

Population - 15,153,000

Currency - Peso

History of Chile

The Republic of Chile stretches nearly 3,000 km (with an average width of less than 180 km) along the west coast of South America between the Pacific and the Andes and stretching down to Cape Horn.

The republic includes the pacific Juan Fernandez islands and the Diego Ramirez islands and Easter Island, as well as laying claim to a section of Antarctica.

Spanish remains the official language of Chile and native languages are sparsely used.

Power in the region was divided between the nomadic Araucanos and the Inca civilisation until the start of Spanish settlement in the 1540's when the area was administered as part of the Spanish Peruvian possesions.

Chile became independent in 1818. In 1973 the overthrow of Dr Allende was followed by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet who stepped down in 1989 in favour of multiparty democracy.

The majority of the population now lives in towns and cities and fully one third of the population live in the capital, Santiago. Chiles' increasingly famous wines grow predominantly in the Vale of Chile, the main agricultural region; agriculture and copper exports form an important part of the nations economy.