Did you know that seven out of ten people are potentially Spanish speakers? The Spanish language is the second most spoken native language in the world and the third most used language on the internet. More than 23 million people studied Spanish in 2023.
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The Instituto Cervantes (the Spanish public institution to promote the teaching, learning and use of Spanish) has published its new annual report about the Spanish language in the world for 2023. Spanish is trendy, there is no doubt about it, after looking at those numbers. But there’s more than that. Keep reading to find out why now is the best moment to become a Spanish teacher and the exciting job opportunities available worldwide.
Spanish is on the podium: it is the second most spoken native language in the world
It is no coincidence that the first modern novel in history was originally written in Spanish. Miguel de Cervantes published the famous Don Quixote in 1605. Since then, the story has been translated into more than 145 languages and it is considered one of the most important pieces of world literature.
Miguel de Cervantes could not have imagined that today, four centuries later after “Don Quijote de la mancha”, the language he used to explain that nobleman’s battles against giants (or perhaps windmills) would be the second most spoken native language in the world. Despite his fruitful imagination, he probably could not have imagined that Spanish would be the third most used language on the internet or that his surname would name the most important institution for the promotion and teaching of the Spanish language: Instituto Cervantes.
Let’s continue analysing the report for more relevant data that elevates the Spanish language to the global podium of languages. Today, more than 599 million people in the world speak Spanish. Of those, more than 500 million are native speakers. For the rest (almost 100 million people), Spanish is their second language, or a foreign language that they master to a greater or lesser extent.
It is important to distinguish countries where Spanish is the official, national, or general language from those where its presence is minority. Spanish is officially spoken in 21 countries, which, ordered from largest to smallest by the number of speakers, are as follows: Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, and Equatorial Guinea.
On the other hand, there are territories where Spanish has a noticeable presence, despite not being included among the officially recognized languages. Among them, it is essential to highlight the United States, which reaches the staggering figure of 41 million speakers whose language proficiency is equivalent to native. This data is astonishing when compared to the 43 million people with the same proficiency in Spain.
In other words, Spain only surpasses the United States by 2 million Spanish speakers. Furthermore, this trend is expected to continue, as estimates suggest that by 2060, the United States will become the second most Spanish-speaking country in the world, after Mexico.
If we look at the tables below, we see that in Spanish-speaking countries, the percentage of native speakers is around 95% (see Table 1).
On the other hand, we see the main countries where the Native Domain Group (GDN) is significant, including the aforementioned United States, as well as the United Kingdom, Morocco, or Canada (see Table 2).
In short, Spanish, in addition to being the fourth most spoken language in the world (behind English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi, in that order), has broad international dissemination: Spanish speakers can be found almost everywhere in the world.
Internet and the future are written in Spanish
Referring to that podium again, Spanish takes the bronze medal among the most used languages in the digital world. Eight out of ten internet users communicate in Spanish. But that’s not all: since the year 2000, the increase in the number of internet users in Spanish has doubled the increase in English users. In other words, in the last two decades, for every new internet user who used English, there have been two new users who have used Spanish. Only in Ibero-America and the Caribbean, the increase in Spanish-speaking internet users was an enormous 2,858% during that period.
There is no need to mention the great significance that digital platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, or Wikipedia have for today’s society. Well, Spanish is also the second most used language on these platforms, only behind English, and far ahead of Portuguese and French. Similarly, the world’s leading social networks (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, now renamed X) are read and written in Spanish, a language that also ranks second behind English.
In the digital age we live in, and especially if we focus on younger generations, these online spaces are the places (although not “physical”) where people spend the most time today. Globally, statistics indicate that people spend 2 hours and 25 minutes a day on social networks, on average.
The fact that the Spanish language is in second place in internet rankings proves the vitality and potential of this language. As if all this were not enough, Spanish is also entering the still unknown universe of artificial intelligence (AI), with projects like LEIA (Spanish Language and Artificial Intelligence) from the Real Academia Española (Spain’s official institution with a mission to ensure the stability of the Spanish language).
In the words of its director, Santiago Muñoz, “(…) AI speaks English, fundamentally, and we must ensure that, little by little, Spanish takes a prominent position in the world of AI, but also in the general world of networks.“
Undoubtedly, the future is written in Spanish.
23 million Spanish students worldwide need Spanish teachers
Today, there are 23 million people studying Spanish worldwide that need a Spanish teacher. This figure is constantly highlighted in each edition of our free webinar on how to find work as an Spanish teacher as a foreign language (in Spanish).
As mentioned before, the content of this article is based mainly on the data extracted and analysed by the Cervantes Institute’s report “Español: Una lengua viva” (Spanish: A Living Language) whose latest version for the year 2023 has just been published. The first of these reports dates to 2009. Since then, over the past 14 years, the number of Spanish students counted by the Cervantes Institute has doubled, from 11.3 million to more than 23 million.
In short: Spanish is in fashion
Looking graphically at all the figures in the infographic above, there is no need to add much more. By way of summary, these are the main reasons that show that the Spanish language is in fashion:
- Spanish is the official language in 21 countries.
- 600 million people speak Spanish worldwide, and more than 500 million are native speakers.
- Seven out of ten people are potential users of Spanish.
- Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world and the third most used on the internet.
- More than 62 million Americans (almost 19% of the total population of the country) are of Hispanic origin.
- Spanish is the second most used language on social networks.
- 76 million Europeans can communicate in Spanish (15.5% of the European Union).
What conclusion can we draw from these figures? Certainly, more than one. Firstly, that Spanish is growing steadily, and these figures are not the result of a “photograph” of the current moment but empirical evidence of its potential, a demonstration of the trend that this language is following and its infinite possibilities in the future.
Secondly, these data show that Spanish is increasingly close to becoming the world’s vehicular language, sharing the position with the English language. The third conclusion we can draw is that there has never been a better time to become a Spanish teacher.
If you have read this far, you will have no doubt about the great popularity of the Spanish language. This is relevant for several reasons. It is relevant not only because of the astronomical number of native speakers, not only for its broad international dissemination, and not only for being the third most used language on the internet. The fact that Spanish is in fashion means that it is also fashionable to learn it. And therefore, it is also fashionable to teach it.
The ELE (Spanish as a Foreign Language) universe has grown alongside the language. Over the past two decades, teaching Spanish to foreigners has become the profession chosen by many graduates in fields such as Hispanic Philology, Translation and Interpretation, or Journalism. But also, people without university education or with training in other areas, such as the scientific field, have decided that teaching Spanish is a possible professional option and have ventured into teaching.
Throughout the article, you have seen evidence of the great demand for Spanish teachers that exists right now. Furthermore, the paradigm of the job market has changed radically in recent years, and more people are looking for jobs that allow them flexibility in schedules and freedom to live wherever they want. In other articles on our blog, you can read stories from our graduates, such as Chloe, Soraida, Shirley, Mónica and Laura.
If you have ever thought that you could be a teacher, if you like working with people, or if you have simply thought that you need a change in your career, now is the time to take the plunge.
Would you like to work as a Spanish as a foreign language teacher?
Our Certificado de Profesor de ELE (ELE- Español como Lengua Extranjera) course, includes 160 hours of training, teaching practice, expert tutor support, and a dedicated careers session to help you find the perfect job tecahing Spanish online or face-to-face. You might also be interetsed to know that around 7% of our Certificado de Profesor de ELE graduates are non-native Spanish speakers. Is that you?
We have trained more than 5000 teachers since 1998 and we are looking forward to train you too. We look forward to meeting you!