Why should we British learn Spanish? Well, there are plenty of obvious reasons:
- Spain’s beauty
- Its resorts
- The sunshine
- The ebullient people
- The tapas
- The wine
- The paella
- The flamenco
- The football
- The fiestas
- The accessibility of the country
- The ease and economy of travel
- The abundance of Spanish language courses on and off line…
… Now I’ve started, I find it difficult to stop! Spanish is everywhere in Britain, and long may it be so.
Aside from the above, there are other excellent, less hedonistic, serious reasons to learn Spanish. Here are six:
1. It’s a global language
Spanish is the official language in 21 countries! Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Spain of course.
It is also an official language of Puerto Rico. Over 20 per cent of all first language Spanish speakers live in Mexico! In the USA, there are 30–40 million native speakers of Spanish.
Apart from the US and Spain, very few people in the above-mentioned countries speak English. So Spanish is essential if you want to get along there.
You may be aware that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world (400 million native speakers) but did you realise that Spanish is the third biggest language on the internet? It makes up eight percent of all usage. Also, along with Africa and the Middle East, Latin America is one of the fastest growing regions in terms of internet use. And considering how crucial the internet is to our society today, that is a major significance.
2. Wonderful art, literature, film, music and culture
Studying and speaking Spanish will open the door to a rich, dazzling and historically important culture. Who doesn’t want to learn more about the country of Picasso and Cervantes? Not to mention all those Latin American countries.
So many of the most popular artworks of the modern age have been created by artists of Spanish origin. They include Goya, Velazquez, Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Kahlo and Rivera. Plus, many of us have wondered at Antoní Gaudi’s ‘Sagrada Familia’ cathedral and other architectural gems.
You can watch, in Spanish, the famous films by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Volver, Pain and Glory) or the Mexican Guillermo del Toro (Pans Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) and start to notice things that English speakers cannot.
Become a convert to Spanish music: Spanish flamenco, Cuban jazz, Mexican rock, Puerto Rican salsa, Argentinian tango…
…or explore the Spanish language through literature. From Miguel de Cervantes, the first modern novelist, to post civil war novelist Carmen Laforet (Nada), first of a generation of women novelists. Appreciate celebrated poets, such as Antonio Machado (Campos de Castilla), Federico García Lorca (Yerma) and Pablo Neruda (Poem XV11). Enjoy magical realists Gabriel García Márquez (100 Years of Solitude) and Jorge Luis Borges (Universal History of Infamy). Or immerse yourself in more contemporary novelists, such as Isabel Allende (the House of the spirits), Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Shadow of the Wind), Eduardo Mendoza (An Englishman Abroad) and Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate).
3. Spanish is a Romance language so it helps with other languages
Once you know Spanish it has a ‘rubbing-off’ effect when looking at any other Romance language like Portuguese, Catalan, Italian, French, or Romanian. Knowledge of one makes it much easier to pick up the others. This is because they all evolved from Latin and still share grammar, syntax and have lots of similar vocabulary. It helps with those Latin sayings too!
You’ll also notice that your English will improve at the same time as learning Spanish. While you’re taking your Spanish lessons, you will quickly notice how learning Spanish will help you boost your vocabulary by familiarising you with Latin roots.
For example, the Spanish word mal means ‘bad’. This small root has a negative connotation in English. You can see it in words such as ‘malevolent’, ‘malicious’, ‘malfunction’, and ‘malignant’. In French they say mal; in Portuguese, mau; in Italian male and so on.
In another example, the Spanish word ‘bien’ means good. The Portuguese is bem, the French bien, the Italian ‘bene’. In English you can see the Latin root ‘ben’ in words denoting goodness, such as benefit, benevolent, benediction, and beneficence.
Start learning Spanish and see how many similarities you start noticing from the beginning!
4. Spanish is easy to learn for an English speaker
Spanish is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. They told you so at school and the evidence is there. The grammar and pronunciation are different from English, but simpler and more consistent.
Many of the words are similar to English because of the Latin roots, as we have seen. The pronunciation, even if you can’t roll your ‘r’s, is easy to learn and does not chop and change like English.
Spanish is all about the vowel sounds. They pronounce each vowel in turn and do not swallow them as we sometimes do in English. Once you have learnt the pronunciation alphabet you will be able to pronounce anything you see in Spanish. Enunciate syllable by syllable and you will soon master the knack.
There are some irregular verbs to learn, but once you know those, then everything else is straightforward with very few ‘exceptions that prove the rule’!
It is an excellent language to learn for the start-up linguist!
5. Now the British like Spanish more than French
The British Council’s Languages of the Future report puts foreign languages for British citizens to learn in order of importance, based on cultural, economic and diplomatic factors.
Spanish tops the list, followed by Arabic, French, Mandarin and German. If Great Britain, the home territory of the English language, which doesn’t have that many Spanish-speaking immigrants, and is next door to France – has decided that Spanish is the best second language, then who are we to argue?
Spanish is also now the second most popular language at A-level after French, having overtaken German in 2005. It is the only major language to buck the trend of year on year decline.
Spanish is offered at degree level by more than 70 universities across the whole of the UK and has seen fewer departmental closures than other languages.
6. Business benefits
The usefulness of Spanish in the world of business is probably the biggest advantage of all. Spain is the UK’s eighth largest goods export market. It is the UK’s tenth largest source of goods imports. With a combined population of over 221 million people, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are all upcoming economies and our trade relations with them are underdeveloped. Apparently, the Mexican economy could overtake that of the UK by 2030.
There are great opportunities here for British firms, particularly if they can operate in Spanish. The UK’s lack of interest in foreign languages is increasingly regarded as a drawback in the global marketplace, so although many Latin Americans speak English, an exporter who can speak Spanish will find it much easier to develop contacts and secure business.
The British Academy publication, Lost for Words, reports that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is creating additional posts for speakers of particular languages in a number of regions. This includes Latin America to reflect the rise of emerging powers and their economies. The FCO plans to increase the number of British diplomats speaking Spanish (Latin American) and Portuguese by 20 per cent. Mexico has been identified as a key target market for incoming international students.
Spain is still the most popular destination for people from the UK with more than 11 million visitors. Tourists from Spain to the UK are the fourth largest non-English speaking group after visitors from France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Spanish is an official language of the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Trade Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the International Telecommunications Union, the Latin Union, the African Union, the Central American Common Market, the European Union, Mercosur, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organisation of American States and the Union of South American Nations.
Start learning Spanish today!
Only about four per cent of the UK’s adult population report that they speak Spanish well enough to hold a conversation.
However, there’s nothing stopping you if you have been inspired by this article. Make a start by signing up to our free Spanish ‘Tempting Tasters’ online lessons – you will receive 10 weekly lessons by email.
Take a look at our blog posts ‘The Best Way to Learn a Language’ and ‘The Five Stages of Learning a Language’ for some tips about how to go about learning Spanish.
Once you are determined to add this string to your bow, let us arrange some lessons for you with one of our wonderful Spanish teachers. We are very proud of our team of qualified and experienced teachers, many of which have been with us for several years. They are all committed professionals, and thanks to them our reputation keeps on growing.