SpanishSpanish is a Romance language named for its origins as the native tongue of a large proportion of the inhabitants of Spain. It is also named Castilian after the Spanish region of Castile where it originated. Spanish is the second most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese.
In 1999 there were, according to Ethnologue, 358 million people speaking Spanish as a native language and a total of 417 million speakers worldwide. Currently these figures are between 400 and 500 million people respectively. Mexico contains the largest population of Spanish speakers. Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and is used as an official language by the European Union and Mercosur.
Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of spoken Latin in central-northern Iberia around the ninth century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the later Middle Ages. Early in its history, the Spanish vocabulary was enriched by its contact with Basque and Arabic, and the language continues to adopt foreign words from a variety of other languages, as well as developing new words. Spanish was taken most notably to the Americas as well as to Africa and Asia-Pacific with the expansion of the Spanish Empire between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, where it became the most important language for government and trade.
Due to its increasing presence in the demographics and popular culture of the United States, particularly in the fast-growing states of the Sun Belt, Spanish is the most popular second language learned by native speakers of American English. The increasing political stability and economies of many larger Hispanophone nations, the language's immense geographic extent in Latin America and Europe for tourism, and the growing popularity of warmer, more affordable, and culturally vibrant retirement destinations found in the Hispanic world have contributed significantly to the growth of learning Spanish as a foreign language across the globe.
Spanish is the third most commonly used language on the Internet after English and Mandarin. It is also the third most studied language and third language in international communication, after English and French, in the world.
There are important variations—phonological, grammatical, and lexical—in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking areas of the Americas. The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish. It is spoken by more than twenty percent of the world's Spanish speakers.