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The Spanish language around the world

Spanish is a global language that is experiencing constant, steady growth. Spanish is among the world’s top five languages in terms of number of speakers, number of countries where it is official, and geographic extension. It is an official language of the United Nations, and a language of reference in international relations.

The latest edition of the Instituto Cervantes yearbook features some figures reflecting the scope of Spanish today. With nearly 493 million native speakers, it is the world's second largest mother tongue, ranking third overall: adding together native speakers, those with a more limited knowledge, and students of the Spanish language, the number tops 591 million Spanish speakers. Spanish is also the third most widely used language on the internet. 


​Minister José Manuel Albares and Santiago Muñoz Machado, Director of the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE), visit the headquarters of the institution minutes before signing a partnership agreement between AECID and ASALE. January 2021. Photo: NOLSOM-MAUC

Aware of its importance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has created the Directorate-General for Spanish around the World, under the aegis of the State Secretariat for Ibero-America and the Caribbean, and Spanish around the World. Its purpose is to ensure the consistency of Spain's actions in promoting its language abroad, and optimizing all of the potential that Spanish has to offer on the international scene. 

Among its lines of action, the Directorate-General is tasked with promoting the role of Spanish as a factor contributing to economic growth and  international competitiveness; with promoting its expansion in traditional areas and in such fields as communications, science, technology, innovation, and accessibility; and with contributing to greater cohesion within the Spanish-speaking community worldwide.​