Did you know that Spanish is the 4th most spoken language in the world? That’s right, there are an estimated 572 million people speaking Spanish in different countries scattered across the globe (if that’s not a good enough reason to learn Spanish, what is?!).
You can probably name many of the most well-known Hispanic countries where Spanish is the official language, but we bet you’ll be surprised to find out what some of the lesser-known ones are!
So, just how many countries speak Spanish as an official language? There are currently 21 countries where Spanish is an official national language.
However, if we’re talking about how many Spanish-speaking countries there are, including those where Spanish is not an official language but is commonly spoken, that number increases to about 25 (depending on who you ask).
Spanish-speaking countries in South America
When you think of Hispanic countries, South America probably comes to mind right away — and rightfully so! Out of the 13 countries in South America, 9 countries speak Spanish as an official language.
The 9 Spanish-speaking countries in South America are:
Before we move on, can you name the 4 countries that don’t speak Spanish in South America? We’ll wait…
Give up yet? The countries and the languages they speak are: Brazil (Portuguese), Guyana (English), Suriname (Dutch), and French Guiana (French, naturally).
Spanish-speaking Countries in Central America
Moving up the map from South America, you’ll find the next largest concentration of Spanish-speaking countries in Central America. There are a total of 7 countries in Central America, 6 of which speak Spanish as an official language.
Those countries are:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
The only country in Central America where Spanish is not an official language is Belize, where English is the official language.
Spanish-speaking Countries in the Caribbean
Now, let’s take a trip out to sea and take a look at how many countries speak Spanish as an official language in the Caribbean. Spanish is the official language of just 3 Caribbean island nations (out of 13 countries and numerous dependencies/overseas territories of other nations).
The 3 Spanish-speaking nations in the Caribbean are:
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico (technically a US territory, but with its own national identity)
Spanish-speaking Countries in North America
The only North American country where Spanish is the official language is Mexico, but it’s the biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world: a whopping 124 million people speak Spanish there!
Though Spanish isn’t an official language of the United States, they get an honorable mention on our list of all Spanish-speaking countries for having the largest Spanish-speaking population outside of Mexico.
There are approximately 41 million native Spanish speakers and more than 11 million bilingual speakers of the language living in the US, meaning it just barely surpasses the other biggest (official) Spanish-speaking countries including Argentina, Colombia, and Spain.
Spanish-speaking Countries in Europe
Speaking of Spain, let’s take a look at what countries speak Spanish in Europe. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Spain is the only European country where Spanish is an official language.
However, the language is also heavily spoken in Andorra (a tiny sovereign state bordered by Spain and France) and Gibraltar (a British overseas territory on the Iberian Peninsula).
Spanish-speaking Countries in Africa
There is just 1 country where Spanish is an official language in Africa, and it’s Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese and French are the 2 other official languages of the country.
It’s also common to find people who are fluent in Spanish in Morocco, because of its geographical closeness to and historical ties with Spain.
How did Spanish Become the Official Language in So Many Countries?
The widespread use of Spanish as an official language came about because of colonization, particularly the colonization of the Americas that began at the end of the 15th century.
The Spanish began to occupy territories from North to South America starting in 1492 and brought along with them their language, culture, and religion, thus causing the “Hispanization” of a vast region inhabited by diverse civilizations who spoke many different indigenous languages.
For example, to this day, the 2 most widely spoken languages in Mexico other than Spanish are the indigenous Nahuatl and Yucatec Maya languages. These were the languages spoken by the powerful Aztec and Maya civilizations that the Spanish encountered when they arrived.
Without getting into too much of a history lesson (you probably had those in school, anyways) the Spanish monarchy ruled over most of what’s now known as Latin America, as well as a few other countries, for the next 3+ centuries.
Though there are smaller populations of people who still speak indigenous languages in many Latin American Hispanic countries, the vast majority of people speak only Spanish.
There’s one former Spanish colony that didn’t make it onto our list of Spanish-speaking countries, but that deserves a mention: the Philippines. Spanish rule lasted in the country until 1898 — longer than it did in any Latin American country.
During this time, Spanish was an official language of the country, and surprisingly remained so until 1987. The Philippines are no longer considered a Spanish-speaking country, but many indigenous Philippine languages borrow a lot of vocabulary from Spanish.
For example, Tagalog, the first language of most Filipinos, has at least 4,000 words originating from Spanish in its vocabulary (adobo, anyone?).
So, the next time you hear someone ask “how many Spanish-speaking countries are there?”, will you be able to name them all?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at all the Spanish-speaking countries around the world, and maybe you’ve added a couple more to your list of places to travel and practice once you learn Spanish!
If you’re looking for a fun way to improve your Spanish apprehension, give Lingopie a try and learn the language by watching entertaining Spanish TV shows from around the world!