[WpProQuiz 35]


Spanish is a Romance language, one of the languages that developed out of Latin sometime after the fall of Rome. That’s why if you ever try to compare French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Romanian, you’re bound to see striking similarities. If we move further out, Spanish belongs to the Latin (or Italic) branch of the much larger Indo-European language family tree. This means it ultimately shares a common ancestry with English, Greek, Russian, Hindi, German and many other languages spoken from India to Europe.

There are more than 330 million native speakers of Spanish, mostly in the Americas (from Mexico and the U.S. down to Argentina and Chile) and Spain. Equatorial Guinea in Africa has Spanish as an official language. On top of that, Spanish was official in the Philippines for more than four centuries, where there are still native speakers. Whew, just think how many people you’ll get to talk to in your new language!

Differences in location also translate to differences in dialect. There are many different dialects of Spanish, but the largest commonly recognized split is between Spain (or “Castilian”) Spanish and Latin American Spanish. We’ll cover major differences as we move along, but this course is primarily in Latin American Spanish, with references to how a Spaniard might do things differently.

Spanish speakers call their language español Spanish or castellano. The first word sounds a bit like España and comes from the Latin name for Spain (Hispania). The second is related to Castilla, home to Madrid and the Castilian dialect of Spanish that became dominant several centuries ago. Since Castilian is the source of all modern standard Spanish, castellano doesn’t just refer to the prestige dialect of Spain, but the whole Spanish language, even in Latin America. As for castellano and español, you’ll learn how to say those words soon enough.

Latin American or European Spanish?

There are a number of important differences between the Spanish of Spain and the Spanish of North America, Central & South America, and the Caribbean. Your first choice, then, is which dialect to start learning.

Most likely, you’ve come to this page with some idea of why you want to learn to speak Spanish. Is it to go to Spain or to study the history and culture of the Spanish-speaking world? It might be best to start with European Spanish. In that case, pay attention to any notes about “Spain Spanish” I give you throughout the lessons. On the other hand, if you’re travelling to Latin America, or you live in the United States or Canada, Latin American Spanish is more likely to be useful to you. Differences between Latin America and Spain are noted in the text, usually in a casual remark.