The Spanish language, or español, is an interesting language to study. Not only is it fun to learn as a second language, it is also fun to investigate the history and makeup of the language. Let’s take a quick look at an overview of the Spanish language!

Spanish is also known as “Castilian” to some. “Castilian” in Spanish is “castellano.” No matter what name you call this language, they all refer to the Romance language that originally came from Latin. Spanish was originally located in the Iberia, but eventually spread thanks to the Kingdom of Castile. This spread occurred in the Middle Ages, but the language continued to move throughout the world until it reached its modern day popularity. Trade and colonization both played a large role in bringing Spanish to North America, Central America, and South America.

Spanish is actually the most common Romance language. This means that there are more people who speak Spanish natively than any other Romance language. Spanish is also the most common Romance language in the terms of being instituted as an official language of a country—more countries lay claim to Spanish as an official language than its French, Latin, or Italian companions. There are approximately four hundred million native speakers of Spanish. This figure makes Spanish the second most natively spoken language in the world (it is only second to Mandarin Chinese). Thanks to America’s close proximity to Mexico and the many immigrants who came to the United States from Mexico, Spanish is the most common second language learned by American English speakers. Spanish is also one of the official languages used by the United Nations and is used by over twenty-one countries as an official language.

If you take a look at Spanish vocabulary, you may recognize some words. This is because English and Spanish have influenced each other throughout time. Some Spanish words have been absorbed into the English language, and even more English words are becoming a part of Spanish. Another reason why words may look familiar is because English has many words that came from Latin, and since Spanish is a Latin language, many words will appear to be similar. You must be careful! Some words in Spanish do not mean what they appear to mean. For example, the Spanish word “librería” looks a lot like the English word “library.” This Spanish word actually means “bookstore!”   

Spanish is one of the most phonetic languages in the word. If you can see a word spelled out, you can always pronounce it. This is especially helpful to people who wish to learn Spanish as a second language. An exception to this rule is the category of loan words. Loan words that have been borrowed from other languages usually keep their spellings, but the pronunciations may change.

As far as making changes to the language and deciding what the official form of Spanish should be, one delegation is in charge. The Royal Spanish Academy is responsible for creating dictionaries and other materials about the Spanish language. This group dates back to the 18th century, and although their rules and decisions are not laws, most Spanish speakers follow the guidelines they come up with. The Royal Spanish Academy was responsible for instituting the use of the inverted question and exclamation marks.

It has been noted that both English and Spanish have heavy influences from Latin and from each other. Although the link between English and Spanish exists, there is another language that had more impact on Spanish. Arabic had the second most impact on Spanish (after Latin). Now that the language has already developed, English has the largest influence on it in terms of new words being added to the language. It is likely that English is having a larger effect on Spanish than Spanish had on English. It is possible that this trend could change, especially since English and Spanish are forced to be exposed to each other often in the United States.

When Spanish sentences have an inverted exclamation point, the purpose of this is to show that emotion is implied by the statement. The emotion can be excitement or surprise, or any other emotion that would garner the use of an exclamation point in English. The same goes for the inverted question mark at the beginning of sentences—this means that the statement is a question. The purpose of this is because of the syntax of the Spanish language. For example, in English, we move the verb to the front of a sentence when we are asking a question. This is how listeners or readers know that a question is coming instead of a statement. In Spanish, the structure of the sentence remains the same between questions and statements, so in order to show that a question is coming, the inverted question mark is displayed before the sentence. The regular question mark is still shown at the end of the sentence.

Although the words that sound similar to English words and the inverted punctuation may be confusing to native English speakers, Spanish is still one of the best languages for English speakers to learn. There are plenty of similarities between the two languages, which helps immensely when trying to master it. The pronunciations, vocabulary, grammar, and structure should all be fairly easy for the native English speaker to pick up on. The only hard part is learning enough vocabulary to become fluent!

As you can see from the discussion above, Spanish is a very interesting language. If you decide to study Spanish, be sure to learn more about the actual language instead of only focusing on the spoken and written language. Doing so can open your eyes to an entire new world, help you understand the history of the language you are getting into, and help you gain insight into a culture. The next time you go to the bookstore or surf the web for language lesson materials, consider looking into some of the material on Spanish itself! Your language journey will become much more intriguing.