Spanish: the language of 500 million speakers

Spanish is the mother tongue of 6.3% of the world's population. The United States is the country with the highest projected growth of the language.

The Spanish language continues to grow worldwide and is now approaching 500 million native speakers. In total, 496.5 million people spoke Spanish in 2020, three million more than in the previous year. This figure approaches 600 million if we refer to all Spanish users in the world, native speakers plus those who have limited proficiency in the language and people learning the language.

The data, collected by the report "Spanish in the World. Instituto Cervantes Yearbook 2022," show that Spanish is the world's second most common mother tongue after Mandarin, and the fourth most spoken language in global terms (native proficiency, limited proficiency and students) after English, Mandarin and Hindi. Nearly 24 million people study Spanish as a foreign language.

As for the future, according to Instituto Cervantes forecasts, the number of Spanish speakers will continue to grow over the next five decades, but this number will decrease relative to the global population between now and the end of the century. By the year 2100, only 6.3% of the world's population will be able to communicate in Spanish.

Spanish in the world
(Instituto Cervantes)

Spanish in the United States

The countries with the highest number of native Spanish speakers are the largest ones where Spanish is the official language: Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina. However, the United States is gaining ground at an accelerated pace despite the fact that Spanish is not its primary language.

According to forecasts, by 2060 the United States will be the second most Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico. In four decades, 27.5% of the U.S. population will be of Hispanic origin and there will be a total of 111 million Hispanics throughout the country.

The report also shows that Spanish is a popular second language. The United States continues to have the highest number of Spanish students, three times the number of students of all other languages combined.