Within three or four generations, about 10 percent of the world’s population will understand Spanish, according to the most recent annual report from the Cervantes Institute on the state of the Spanish language.
The institute, which publishes the report known as El español en el mundo (Spanish in the World), also says that if current trends continue, by 2050 the United States will have the largest Spanish-speaking population of any country thanks mostly to a relatively high birth rate among U.S. Hispanics. However, the report doesn’t make an attempt to assess the likelihood that those trends will change, as could come about, for example, if birth rates were to drop or Latin America were to become stronger economically.
Among the interesting figures in the report:
- With 7.8 percent of Internet communications in Spanish, Spanish is the No. 3 language of the Web, although it’s well behind English (26.8 percent) and Chinese (24.2 percent). However, because most Chinese-language communications take place within China, Spanish is No. 2 in terms of international communications.
- Nearly half a billion people in the world speak Spanish.
- Worldwide, Spanish ranks third behind English and French in terms of people learning it as a second language. About 18 million people throughout the world study Spanish as a second language, and Asia is showing increasing interest in the language because of international trade and tourism. The leading countries in terms of Spanish-language students are the United States and Brazil with 6 million and 5 million, respectively.
- Argentina ranks highest among Spanish-speaking countries in terms of Internet penetration with 71.5 percent, recently passing Spain, which has 65.6 percent. Nicaragua ranks last in Latin America with 11.7 percent penetration.