The Historical Roots of the Spanish Language

The historical roots of the Spanish language

The Spanish language is one of the fastest growing languages on the planet. Currently there are almost 400 million Spanish speakers globally, and it is the official language in 21 countries. It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be 900 million Spanish speakers globally- that’s 10% of the world’s population. Additionally, at this time it is estimated that the United States will be home to the largest population of these speakers. So, just how did the Spanish language come to be so popular and widespread?

In this blog, we will discuss the historical roots of the Spanish language, and trace the language through from its origins to the modern day by highlighting the following important points:

  • The Origins of The Spanish Language
  • The Spanish Language and the ‘New World’
  • Modern day Spanish Language

The Origins of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is part of what we call today the ‘Romance Language’ family, with ‘Romance’ referring to its 5th Century Roman origins. As with most other Romance languages such as French, Portuguese and Italian, Spanish has its roots firmly planted in the Latin language, which was spoken by most of Europe at that time as well as parts of North Africa and even the Middle East, Turkey and parts of West Asia. The Spanish language in particular is said to have so many similarities to Latin that it is both the mother and the father of what we know today as the modern Spanish language. The emergence of Spanish form its Latin parents began after the fall of the Roman Empire, and slowly but surely became the dominant language of the Iberian Peninsula.

Beginning in the early 700’s CE, Arab armies began to head North with the express intent of conquering the Iberian Peninsula, and were largely successful. They stayed for over 600 years, and Arabic left a lasting impression on the Spanish Language. To this day, there are thousands of words in the Spanish language dictionary that are derived from Arabic. In fact, second to Latin, Arabic had more influence on the Spanish language than any other language. Most of these ‘borrowed’ words are in the industrial fields like agriculture, science and trade such as algoritmo (algorithm) and algebra. It’s often easy to spot many words with Arabic origin, as they tend to begin with the letter A, such as aceituna (olive), which is is zeitun in Arabic, Azúcar (sugar) from its Arabic counterpart sikkar and Aceite (oil) which is zeit.

The start of the standardization of the Spanish language can be traced as far back as the 13th century when King Alfonso X of Castile decreed that all of the official documents would now be written in Castilian, the formal dialect of the Spanish language. King Alfonso, also known as Alfonso the wise, supervised his scribes in the writings of astronomy, history, law and many other fields, firmly establishing consistency of the Spanish language.

The Spanish Language and the ‘New World’

It wasn’t until 1492 that Spanish armies were finally able to able to re-conquer the last remaining Arab stronghold in Granada, expelling them from the Iberian Peninsula for good. Now that Spain was not preoccupied with removing their invaders, they were free to start exploring the world. This is exactly what a man named Christopher Columbus did when he set off for the new world, bringing a brand new language with him. Despite being Italian himself, he was sent across the Atlantic under the orders of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. It was this voyage that began the Spanish colonization of the New World.

1492 was one of the most important years in the history of the planet, as this was the first time what we refer to as the ‘Old World’: Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, would be connected to the ‘New World’: the Americas. Initially, when Columbus arrived the Spanish language did not spread very quickly. The natives had their own deeply ingrained languages, cultures and traditions, and were reluctant to be assimilated into Spanish culture. The biggest advancements in spreading the Spanish language came when Catholicism was introduced to the ‘New World’, often forcefully. Jesuits and Franciscans used Spanish to teach the young children of Central and South America their religion, and tried to recruit as many of the indigenous populations as possible to Catholicism. Within a generation, Spanish became the de facto lingua franca of the Americas, bridging the gap between the hundreds of regional languages that existed before and facilitating trade in the region. As the populations of these regions grew and became established over time, their unique cultures shaped the original Spanish language into many regional varieties. While all forms of Spanish are generally mutually intelligible and still based on the original Castilian, they have their own unique accents, expressions, and slang. This makes Spanish a very unique and incredibly diverse language that continues to grow and evolve.

Modern day Spanish Language

Today, the Spanish language is one of the most popular languages in the world with over 560 million speakers, and has the largest number of native speakers second only to Mandarin. It is also the third most widely used language on the internet, behind only English and Mandarin. This means that it is important for businesses to translate their materials into Spanish, lest they miss out on such a large market share. Using a professional Spanish translation and copy editing service such as Spanish with Style gives businesses the tools to communicate with such a large group of people. The Spanish language is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations as well as an official language of the European Union, the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations among other organizations. These are very important organizations that also use professional Spanish language translation and copy editing services for their needs.

The Spanish language is natively spoken by 8% of the world with another 7% having it as their second language. In Europe, it is the official language of Spain but also counts many speakers in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The Americas have the largest population of Spanish speakers, with most countries in the region counting Spanish as an official language: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela all officially use the Spanish language, albeit with regional differences. Even countries that don’t officially list Spanish as an official language are home to large populations of Spanish speakers such as Brazil with over one million native Spanish speakers in their very large, mostly Portuguese speaking country, as well as the United States. All these countries can have different accents, but more interestingly they often have very different vocabularies. Simple words for fruits and vegetables, for example, can vary widely between Spanish speaking communities. With different words for small things like fruits and vegetables, it is important to have a professional Spanish translation and copy editing experts like Spanish With Style tailor your documents to the specific group of speakers with whom you are trying to communicate, or at the very least into what some call ‘neutral’ Spanish.

With all the different dialects, accents and slang words around the world, Spanish With Style can guarantee your translations are professional, clear, concise and most importantly tailored for your specific audience. With the variances in the Spanish language being so different from each other, from Chile to Spain to Mexico, and even Texas and Cuba, the need for professional translation and copy editing services is more prevalent than ever.

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