Spanish is the most widely spoken Romance Language and is part of the Indo-Germanic language family. With over 500 million speakers, whose first or second language is Spanish, it is considered as a global language and ranks 4th position among the most spoken languages worldwide.
To understand how the Spanish language could spread its wings over 20 countries across three continents, it is essential to take a closer look at the history of the Spanish language, which is achieved by examining different parts of the world where Spanish is spoken.
The history of the Spanish language in Spain and the origin of the different dialects began with the introduction of Vulgar Latin in the Northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, where the Celt Iberians, the Spanish ancestors, used to live at that time. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Castilian Spanish evolved out of Vulgar Latin.
With the beginning of the Reconquista, the Northern dialect Castilian spread to the southern part and therefore replaced the local Romance dialects. Many Arabic words were integrated into the Spanish language during the Moorish period (711-1492). It is said that approximately 3000-4000 Spanish words derived from the Arabic language.
During the 13th century under King Alfonso X, Castilian started to become standardised and Toledo was the cultural and linguistic epicentre.
Antonio de Nebrija wrote the first Spanish grammar book (Gramática de la lengua castellana), which was also the first published grammar book of Romance languages. Later, in 1492, he presented it to Queen Isabella.
Castilian Spanish then quickly became the official language for all educational and official documentation in Spain. Today, there are four dialects in Spain: Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician.
In Europe also remains the Judeo-Spanish language, also known as Ladino, which was spoken by the Jewish population in Spain until the Inquisition in Spain in the late 15th century when Spain expelled the Jewish people. It continues to be spoken by some speakers mainly in Israel, Turkey, and Greece.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492, he and the Spanish people aggressively imposed the Spanish languages on the natives in order to conquer the regions and gain wealth.
The territorial focus of the Spanish colonisation was America, which explains why today Spanish is the official language of all South American republics (except Brazil and French Guyana), the six nations of Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba and is also spoken in many states of the US.
Spanish colonisation also took part in Equatorial Guinea in the late 18th century and the Spanish language was introduced as the official language in 1968, when independence was granted. It is also widely spoken in the Western Sahara, which was a Spanish colony from the 1880s to the 1970s.