Hello everyone, and welcome to the Langfocus channel. My name is Paul. Today I am going to talk about the Spanish language. As you may know, Spain has more than one language, so when I say “Spanish,” I’m referring specifically to Castilian Spanish, which is spoken as a native language by seventy-four percent of the people of Spain and ninety-nine percent of the people of Spain, including second language speakers. Castilian is the Spanish language that grew to become one of the most important global languages. During this video, I might refer to it as Castilian, to contrast it with other languages of Spain, but usually I’ll refer to it as Spanish. Out of all languages in the world, Spanish has the second largest number of native speakers, with 470 million native speakers, as well as another 90 million who speak it as a second language. It is also one of the most widely dispersed languages, with 44 countries of the world having at least three million native speakers of Spanish or more.
It is one of the six official languages of the UN, as well as an official language of the European Union. It is also an official language of 21 countries, if we include Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the US. It also used to be an official language of the Philippines, but it is not anymore. Spanish is also the third most widely used language on the Internet. According to one source that I consulted: “The use of Spanish online has grown by 800% in the past few years.” Spanish is a member of the Ibero-Romance sub-family of the Romance language family.
Other members of that sub-family include Portuguese, Galician, and some people say, Catalan. Like all Romance languages, Spanish developed from Vulgar Latin, the spoken Latin that was brought to the area by the Roman Empire. Vulgar Latin evolved into numerous regional dialects, which eventually became distinct enough to be considered different languages. There are documents from the ninth century that are written in an early form of Castilian Spanish, or we could say a late form of Vulgar Latin. In any case, documents like these show that the Vulgar Latin dialects were becoming separate languages by that point.
Castilian Spanish is the language that arose in the north central region of the Iberian Peninsula, called Castille and it grew more and more distinct from its neighbor language, Leonese. It became firmly established as a distinct language in the thirteenth century when King Alfonso decided to standardize the written language for official use, based on the dialect spoken in Toledo. A process which continued for a few hundred years until the sixteenth century.
In the 1300s, the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula was under the control of Al-Andalus, a Muslim-controlled territory that had previously controlled most of the peninsula. The Reconquista, which means “The Reconquest,” resulted in the retaking of the Muslim areas and of the spread of Castilian Spanish to the south. There, it was influenced by the Mozarabic dialects. Those were Romance dialects, spoken by Muslims in Al-Andalus, that contained a lot of loanwords from Arabic. Castilian Spanish absorbed a lot of those Arabic loan words, up to four thousand words, or eight percent of the modern language’s vocabulary. Some common Spanish words of Arabic origin are: * “hasta,” which means “until.” That comes from the Arabic word “hatta,” with the same meaning; “ojalá,” which means “I hope,” comes from the Arabic word “law sha’allah,” or “in sha’allah,” which means “if it’s God’s will”; “aceite,” which means “oil,” as in olive oil, comes from the Arabic word “az-zayt,” with the same meaning.
There are also a lot of words in Spanish that begin with “A-L,” “al,” which is the Arabic definite article. For example, “alcohol,” from the Arabic word “al-kuHuul,” which, of course, means “alcohol”; and “alcalde,” which means “mayor,” comes from the Arabic word “al-qaa-Dii,” which means “judge” in Arabic. That’s just a couple examples, but there are lots of words beginning with “al” in Spanish. The Christian reconquest of the south successfully ended in 1492, and that very same year, Spain began sending explorers, like Christopher Columbus, abroad to build the Spanish Empire. The Spanish language spread, along with the empire, to the Americas, to the Spanish East Indies, which includes present-day Philippines, and to some parts of Africa. One area it spread to was Mexico, which today has the largest Spanish-speaking population of any country, with120 million speakers of Spanish. The variety of Spanish spoken in Mexico varies somewhat from the variety spoken in Spain, and that’s true for the other Spanish-speaking countries as well.
The standard written language is basically the same everywhere, but the spoken language has some differences, especially in pronunciation and in vocabulary, and especially in common daily vocabulary, like clothing, food, and things like that. In Latin America, various native languages influence the different local varieties of Spanish. What’s the best variety of Spanish to learn? Well, the varieties are often categorized into European Spanish and Latin American Spanish. From what I understand, there isn’t a lot of difference for beginners. No matter which variety you learn, you will be able to adapt to other varieties quite easily. Personally, I’ve met more Spanish speakers from Mexico than from any other country, so for me that’s the natural choice, but for you, it depends on which variety you are most likely to use and which one you’re most interested in.
Like Romance languages in general, Spanish shares a lot of vocabulary with English — not identical vocabulary, but related vocabulary that you can figure out and you can more easily remember if you associate it with the related English words. Let’s take a look at a couple sentences: “¿Cuánto cuesta un viaje a Nueva York?” Okay, so the first word, “cuánto,” that sounds to me like “quantity,” so I think it means “how much,” because this is a question. The next word, “cuesta,” well, I think that probably means “cost.” The next word “un”, I know that means “a”, the indefinite article. The next word “viaje”. Well, that looks like “voyage” to me, or “voyage” in French, so I think it means a “voyage” or a “trip,” and then “a,” I know means “to,” and “Nueva York”, of course, that means “New York”. So I think this means : “How much does a trip to New York cost?” If we translate it literally, “How much cost a trip to New York?” Another sentence: “El hombre conduce un automóvil.” So let’s look at it word by word: “El,” I know, that means “the,” the definite article, “Hombre,” that’s a word I know from movies and stuff; I think that means “man.” “Conduce,” well, I’m not sure.
Let’s come back to that one in a second. “Un” is “a” and “automóvil” that means “automobile” = “car.” So go back to “conduce,” well maybe that means “conduct”. or in this case, you don’t conduct an automobile, you drive an automobile. So this means “The man drives an automobile” or “The man drives a car.” So you can see that you can figure out what those words mean if you look at each word and analyze them. It’s not always that easy, but that’s an easy example, so you know what I mean. And also, if we look at the syntax of those sentences, we can see that they’re very similar to English. So the first sentence again, “¿Cuánto cuesta un viaje un Neuva York?” “How much cost a trip to New York?” Quite similar to English, but just sort of simplified.
The next sentence: “The man drives a car.” That one is word-by-word exactly the same as English, so it’s translatable directly. Of course, the grammar gets more complicated than that, but just the most basic syntax is very similar to English. So this is one of the benefits of learning a Romance language for English speakers. According to the American Foreign Service Institute, Spanish is a Category I language. That means that, relatively speaking, it is one of the easier languages for native English speakers to learn.
So what are you waiting for? Learn some español, or should I say, castellano? I’m not sure, because Spanish speakers themselves can’t actually agree on this issue. In the red-coloured countries, the preferred term is “castellano,” and in the blue-coloured countries, the preferred term is “español.” And in Spain, you can see that there is some disagreement about which term is best. If you’re a native speaker of Spanish, maybe you can tell us what you think about that in the comments down below. And other people, you can leave your comments, too. Thank you for watching. Have a nice day. .
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