Spanish is truly a global language. It’s one of the few languages that can help you communicate across multiple continents. Even in places not typically associated with Spanish—like Africa and Asia—Spanish can still come in handy if you’re in the right spot. It’s easy to overlook the sheer number of Spanish speakers in the world, so in this blog, we’ll take a look at just how many people speak Spanish and where those people live.
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Total number of Spanish speakers
Let’s start with the numbers:
- Spanish has 496 million native speakers and 595 million total speakers, according to a report by the Cervantes Institute.
- Native Spanish speakers make up 6.3 percent of the world’s population.
- Spanish speakers in general (including non-native speakers and Spanish language learners) make up 7.5 percent of the world’s population.
- Spanish is the 2nd most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese
- Spanish is the 4th most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin, and Hindi.
Additionally, Spanish is becoming more widespread. In 2022, Spanish gained three million more native speakers and four million more total speakers compared to 2021.
Countries with the most Spanish speakers
These are the top ten countries with the most Spanish speakers, including native speakers and people who speak Spanish as a second language.
- Mexico: 130 million speakers
- United States: 57 million speakers
- Colombia: 52 million speakers
- Spain: 48 million speakers
- Argentina: 46 million speakers
- Peru: 33 million speakers
- Venezuela: 33 million speakers
- Chile: 20 million speakers
- Guatemala: 17 million speakers
- Ecuador: 16 million speakers
Number of Spanish speakers by region
Spanish is more influential in some parts of the world than others. Here’s a comprehensive look at the number of Spanish speakers that reside in different parts of the globe.
North America has more Spanish speakers than any other continent. For clarity, we’ve separated North America into three regions.
North American mainland
Though Spanish isn’t an official language of the United States—the U.S. has no official national language—about 42 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish as their first language, and an additional 15 million speak it as a second language. This makes it the nation with the second highest population of both native and secondary Spanish speakers, and that population is growing every year.
Additionally, it is also the country with the highest number of Spanish language learners, with 50 percent of college students and over 70 percent of high school students choosing to learn Spanish.
The country with the largest Spanish-speaking population is just across the U.S.’ southern border. Mexico has 122 million native speakers and 8 million who speak it as a second language.
Central America is home to 39 million native Spanish speakers. Six of the region’s seven countries use Spanish as their official language, including:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
The seventh country, Belize, lists English as its official language. Even still, over half of the population of Belize speaks fluent Spanish.
Approximately 28 million people in the Caribbean speak Spanish. Most Spanish speakers in the Caribbean are concentrated in the two countries and one territory that recognize Spanish as their official language:
- The Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
Other Caribbean nations and territories officially speak English or French, but you can still find Spanish-speaking populations there.
Roughly 210 million South Americans speak Spanish, and nine of the twelve sovereign countries in South America use Spanish as either their official or de facto national language. Those countries are:
Though South America has a massive number of Spanish speakers, the Spanish-speaking population is slightly less than half of the continent’s total population of 422 million. Of the South American countries that do not use Spanish as their official language, the largest by far is Brazil. Its national language is Portuguese, and Brazil alone has more than half of South America’s total population.
Despite being the birthplace of the Spanish language, Europe has far fewer Spanish speakers than the Americas. Spain accounts for the vast majority of Spanish users on the continent, with 48 million speakers. While 92 percent of people in Spain are native Spanish speakers (many Spaniards are native speakers of other languages like Catalan, Valencian, Galician, and Basque), 99 percent of the population speaks Spanish as a first or second language.
Outside of Spain, there are about 1.3 million Spanish speakers in Europe. France, Portugal, and Italy all have significant Spanish-speaking populations, which makes sense considering those countries’ official languages are Romance languages and linguistically similar to Spanish.
There are likely between one and two million Spanish speakers in Africa. Just one country in Africa uses Spanish as its official language: Equatorial Guinea, where 90 percent of the population speaks Spanish.
There are also pockets of Spanish speakers in other parts of Africa, including the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla near Morocco, the city of Oran in Algeria, and the self-proclaimed state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Asia and Oceania
There are no countries in Asia and Oceania that list Spanish as an official language, though there are still some Spanish speakers. Most notably, about 400,000 people in the Philippines speak Spanish. Due to a history of Spanish colonization, Spanish was one of the country’s official languages until 1987.
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