September is Spanish Heritage Month in the United States, so it is fitting to talk about one of the world’s most spoken languages. Spanish currently ranks fourth most spoken language, with 538 million native speakers. It is a global language, and most of the countries that used to be territories of Spain have retained Spanish culture and traditions, many of them celebrating related festivals and holidays. Today, there are 21 countries where Spanish is an official language.
According to the 2017 census data, the United States has an estimated Hispanic population of around 59.8 million, or 18.3%. Over one million Spanish speakers live in Texas, New York, New Mexico, California, Arizona, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. Moreover, about 41 million residents in the U.S. use Spanish at home.
The Spanish-speaking community in the U.S. continues to grow. Right now, the United States ranks second to Mexico in terms of the Spanish speaking population, which is even more than the speakers of Spanish in Spain. It is projected that by 2050, the number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. will reach 138 million.
National Spanish Heritage Month
The National Spanish Heritage Month is an annual celebration in the United States. It begins on September 15 and ends on October 15, which is under Public Law 100-402. It celebrates the histories, contributions, and cultures of American citizens whose ancestors originated from Mexico, Spain, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
The celebration of the National Spanish Heritage Month coincides with the anniversary of the independence of Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. Columbus Day (Día de la Raza), which happens on October 12, is included in the celebration.
People who join in the celebration show support to the Hispanic community by joining Hispanic food fests and cultural events and donating to Hispanic charities.
Distribution of Spanish speakers in the United States
You can find Spanish speakers in almost every state in the U.S., although they are more concentrated in specific areas. Top locations are Texas, with 12%, followed by California, with 11.9%. About 9.2% of Florida’s population speaks Spanish, while 8.5% of Nevada’s population is Spanish speakers. Most large cities across the country have sizeable people that speak Spanish at home, as follows:
- New York City (1,891,000)
- Los Angeles, California (1,541,000)
- Houston, Texas (690,000)
- Chicago, Illinois (628,000)
- San Antonio, Texas (504,000)
- Phoenix, Arizona (467,000)
- Dallas, Texas (441,000)
- Miami, Florida (280,000)
- San Diego, California (255,000)
- Austin, Texas (197,000)
- San Jose, California (195,000)
- Fort Worth, Texas (177,000)
- Albuquerque, New Mexico (136,000)
- Denver, Colorado (125,000)
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (123,000)
- Las Vegas, Nevada (95,000)
- Boston, Massachusetts (86,000)
- San Francisco, California (86,000)
- Newark, New Jersey (80,000)
- Charlotte, North Carolina (67,000)
- Indianapolis, Indiana (48,000)
- Detroit, Michigan (45,000)
- Nashville-Davidson, Tennessee (41,000)
- Jacksonville, Florida (39,000)
- Washington, D.C (38,000)
- Memphis, Tennessee (27,000)
- Columbus, Ohio (25,000)
- Seattle, Washington (20,000)
- Baltimore, Maryland (16,000)
Twenty-nine out of the 50 states in the U.S. have significant numbers of Spanish speakers. These are:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
Official Spanish language
The original and official Spanish language, or Castilian, is the Spanish spoken in central and northern Spain. Other people refer to it as Peninsular Spanish. It became the region’s official language due to the proclamation of King Alfonso X of Spain in the 13th century.
Top Spanish dialects
As a language, Spanish has many differences in speech among its group. You call them dialects, which are the differences in pronunciation and tone. There could also be differences in expressions and words, which may have different meanings. With the rich history of the language and the diversity of the people speaking Spanish worldwide, various other languages have affected the language, making most of the Spanish dialects distinct from one another.
While several regions speak Spanish, the dialectical differences are distinct, according to the location.
- Andalusian Spanish. This is spoken in southern Spain. The Andalusian dialect is softer and more fluid due to the deletion of consonants such as ‘d’ and ‘r’ and the aspiration of ‘s’ at the words’ ending. Andalusian Spanish drops the final consonants.
- Murcian dialect. This is spoken by people residing in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia, located in Spain’s southeast. It is a mix of Occitano-Catalan, Old Castilian, Aragonese, Arabic, and Andalucian. It is now considered an endangered language.
- Basque and Catalan. These are distinct language groups in Spain itself. In the autonomous Spanish community in the Pyrenees, residents speak Basque, which is a language isolate. Residents of Andorra speak Catalan.
- Galician dialect. This is spoken in Galicia, located in the northwestern of Spain. It is influenced by Portuguese.
- This is the common dialect spoken by the residents in Extremadura’s autonomous community, which is in the western section of Spain.
- This is spoken by the majority of the population in the Canary Islands. It is a dialect similar to Caribbean Spanish, but heavily influenced by Portuguese.
- Llanito. This is a combination of British English and Andalusian Spanish, spoken by residents of Gibraltar.
- Latin American Spanish. This is so named to differentiate it from Spanish spoken in Spain. It is commonly spoken in Central and South American countries, and in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico. They have slight variations, but speakers can mutually understand one another. You may hear some people say they speak Colombian Spanish, Peruvian Spanish, Bolivian Spanish, and so on, which indicates where they come from.
- Rioplatense Spanish. This is mostly spoken by people in the River Basin between Uruguay and Argentina. This dialect differs in intonation, as it closely resembles Italian due to the influx of Italian immigrants in the 19th century.
- Caribbean Spanish. This is spoken by most of the people residing in Central America, the east coast of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The distinctions are in the omission of the final consonants, the aspirate ‘r’, and the omitted middle consonants.
- Equatoguinean Spanish. This is the Spanish dialect spoken in Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa.
Learning Spanish: Tips and mistakes to avoid
Spanish is a beautiful language, and as one of the more dominant languages in the world, you may want to study it if you are thinking of advancing in your career. Most of the Spanish words are pronounced as written, making it easier for English speakers to learn. There are always exceptions to the rule, but it is something that your instructor will help you learn. Most of the words ending in “a” are feminine, and those ending in “o” are masculine. Again, take note of the exceptions. Another thing you have to overcome is the verb conjugation.
Aside from regular lessons, it would help if you try reading Spanish newspapers and magazines online. Watch Spanish dramas with the subtitles on. Using headphones will help you learn pronunciation and the nuances of the language. You can try listening to Spanish songs and translating children’s books written in Spanish if you’re a beginner. Find online friends who are willing to teach you Spanish while you teach them your language. Various online sources will help augment your formal Spanish language lessons to improve your listening, writing, and reading skills.
It is vital to learn Spanish properly from the start, which means that you should avoid common mistakes that can hinder your mastery of the language. Here are some of them.
- Assuming that words that look similar to English mean the same thing. For example, ”embarazada” does not mean ”embarrassed.” The term translates to ”pregnant” in English.
- Forgetting that articles and prepositions are essential in Spanish.
- Ignoring proper pronunciation
- Using pronouns excessively
- Forgetting that not all sentence order follows the English word order of subject-verb-object. In Spanish, the verb may precede the subject, which changes the meaning of the sentence.
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We join hands with our Spanish-speaking clients, colleagues, and friends worldwide
in celebrating the National Spanish Heritage Month!