A blog of the Wilson Center
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A recent report conducted by Instituto Cervantes asserts that nearly 493 million people in the world speak Spanish as their native language. Measured by number of native speakers, that would make Spanish the world’s second most prominent language behind Mandarin Chinese.
Mexico has the world’s largest Spanish speaking-population—by a wide margin—but the US currently has the world’s fourth largest Spanish-speaking population, when measuring native Spanish speakers. In fact, the US has 40 times the number of Spanish speakers of any other country where Spanish is not an official language.
Instituto Cervantes estimates that by 2060, 27.5% of the US population will be of Hispanic origin. They also predict that the US will then be the world’s second largest Spanish speaking country.
These trends have been a long time in the making…some four centuries to be precise. It began with Spanish colonization and has been perpetuated by the long-standing flow of migrants from Mexico and countries south. But it’s more than that. Many in the US have come to see Spanish language proficiency as a professional asset given the many economic ties between the US and Mexico, including the purchasing power of the Hispanic community in the US. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that the US currently has the world’s largest number of Spanish language students.
Despite the numerous important commercial links and exchanges between the two countries, many Americans tend to see the US-Mexico relationship only through the lens of the migration debate. After a decade-long decline, the number of people migrating from Mexico to the US is once again on the rise, driven by the chronic inequality, exacerbated by today’s global challenges.
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