What is the Future for the Spanish language? – Part 1/2
In the last few years, the emergence of new key players at an international level; such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa has changed the forecast of what the pre-eminent languages of the future may be. This situation has left language students at a crossroads when they have to make a decision as to which language they should choose to study to boost their “prospective” careers.
Over the centuries the landscape of the Spanish language has transformed dramatically. Expansionism and colonization have shaped the pattern of languages in the world and this is no more evident than with regards to the Spanish language in Latin and South America.
Today, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, it follows Mandarin and it is slightly ahead of English. Without underestimating the predominance of the Chinese language as the most spoken language, the English language continues to be the forerunner with regards to technology, politics and finance.
Reportedly, the Spanish language is the 3rd most used language on the Internet, following English and Chinese. As the number of internet users in the world continues to grow the diversity of internet languages will assuredly keep pace. However, these ‘new comers’ to the internet will have to catch up with the existing users, their economies and within already well developed cyber networks.
It appears that language students find it easier to learn Spanish due to the phonetic nature of the language. In addition, both Spanish and English share a common root on several thousands words, where spelling and even meaning are similar. This is an advantage for English mother tongue students when learning Spanish language and vice versa.
Whilst it is not difficult for speakers of tonal languages, such as Burmese and Vietnamese, to learn tones of Mandarin, speakers of non-tonal languages find it very hard to learn these tones. Similarly, foreign students of Mandarin find it difficult when trying to learn the character-based writing system and this even takes years of hard work for native speakers to master it. Even the most devoted students of Mandarin will take years before they can read a text with some proficiency.
So, what is the future for the Spanish language?
Bearing the above in mind we can easily see the impact of Spanish as a language, sharing a niche with Chinese (Mandarin) and English, as the predominant competitors as a global language.
English and Spanish have spread by country, as in numbers. This would suggest to the layman that either English or Spanish will take the primary positions in language expansion through country/continental spread rather than simply through weight of numbers alone.
We have to question why English and Spanish are predominant with regards to global spread and usage. The best way to do this is to determine similar characteristics and especially differences in approach to language development. Both languages have had such a global impact due to their history of proactive colonisation.
In addition, as the birth rate in Spanish-speaking countries is outpacing that of English speaking countries it is expected that the Spanish speaking population will remain strongly in its second position, at least in the very near future. Latin American economies are showing some signs of improvement and if this growth continues it would seem that the Spanish language will achieve greater importance globally with regards to communication, finances and trade.
(The second part of this article can be be found: What is the Future for the Spanish Language – Part 2/2, 30 Jan 15)