Where Is Spanish Spoken?

Spanish is top language in 20 countries, widely used in others

Andorra la Vella
Andorra la Vella, Andorra.

Xiquinho Silva / Creative Commons.

Spanish is one of the world's most important languages: It is spoken by more than a half-billion people, making it one of the world's most widely spoken languages, according to Ethnologue: Languages of the World.

Although Spanish had its origins as a variation of Latin in the Iberian Peninsula, it is now used most extensively in the Americas. It is the official or de facto national language in 20 countries, and it increasingly is used in several other countries, including the United States.

The following list is of those countries where Spanish is the most important language. It is official in most of them, although in a few cases the language is dominant without being officially recognized.

Where Spanish Is the Top Language

Andorra: French and Catalan are also widely spoken languages in this country, one of the smallest in Europe.

Argentina: In terms of area, Argentina is the largest country where Spanish is the national language. The Spanish of Argentina is distinguished by its use of vos and its pronunciation of the ll and y sounds.

Bolivia: Although nearly all residents of Bolivia speak Spanish, about half do so as a second language.

Chile: Spanish is universally used in this narrow country, with little variation from north to south.

Colombia: With about 50 million people, Colombia is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in South America and has become linguistically influential because of its TV and movie industry. English is co-official in the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Department off the coast of Nicaragua.

Costa Rica: Indigenous languages have all but disappeared in this peaceful Central American country. Costa Ricans are sometimes called ticos because of the use of the -ico diminutive suffix.

Cuba: Like other Caribbean Spanish, the Spanish of this island nation is characterized by the weakening of consonant sounds, especially the -s at the end of a syllable.

Dominican Republic: Weakening of consonants, such as the disappearance of the d sound in past participles and other words ending in -ado, is common in Dominican Spanish.

Ecuador: Despite its small size, the Spanish of this country on the equator is characterized by strong regional variations.

El Salvador: The use of vos as the second-person singular pronoun is very common in this Central American country.

Equatorial Guinea: Spanish is spoken by about 70 percent of the population in this African nation, where French and Portuguese are also official but much less widely used. About 500,000 speak the indigenous Fang language.

Guatemala: Although Spanish is the dominant language of Guatemala, about 20 indigenous languages are spoken by several million people total.

Mexico: By population, Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country. The accent used in its capital, Mexico City, is sometimes considered to be "standard" Latin American Spanish and is sometimes imitated for movies and television in other countries.

Nicaragua: Although Spanish is the national language, a creole English and indigenous languages such as Miskito are widely used on the Atlantic Coast.

Panama: Imported English words are fairly common in Panamanian Spanish because of the influence of the former Panama Canal Zone.

Paraguay: The Spanish of this small country is similar to that of Argentina. The indigenous Guaraní language is co-official.

Peru: Spanish is dominant in most areas of the country, while the indigenous Quechua and Ayamara languages are co-official.

Spain: Spanish is just one of four official languages of the birthplace of Spanish, the others being Catalan, Galician, and Euskara (often known as Basque). Catalan and Galician are strong connections with Spanish, both having developed from Latin, while Euskara is unrelated to any other language in Europe.

Uruguay: The Spanish of this small country is similar to that of Argentina.

Venezuela: Although dozens of indigenous languages have legal recognition in Venezuela, only Spanish is used as a national language.

Other Countries Where Spanish Is Important

Tops on the list of other countries where Spanish is spoken is, of course, the United States, although it is a semi-official language in only one state (New Mexico). Spanish is also the dominant language in Puerto Rico, a mostly autonomous U.S. territory.

Well over 20 million U.S. residents have Spanish as a primary language, although most are bilingual. You'll find plenty of Spanish speakers with Mexican heritage along the southern U.S. border and in many agricultural areas throughout the country, those of Cuban heritage in Florida, and those of Puerto Rican heritage in New York City, just to name a few. Miami has the largest number of Spanish speakers in the Western Hemisphere outside of Latin America, but you'll find plenty of communities all over that have enough hispanohablantes to support Spanish-language media and services.

Spanish used to be an official language of the Philippines, although few people these days speak it as a first language. However, a large proportion of the vocabulary of the national language, Filipino, is of Spanish origin.

Although English is the official language, Spanish is widely used in Central America's Belize and is taught in schools.