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As Latin integrated with the native languages of the Iberian Peninsula, a transformation occurred. Vulgar Latin, a more colloquial and everyday form of the language, began to take shape. This process, known as “Romanization,” marked the first step towards the birth of Spanish. The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE led to the arrival of the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe. While they ruled the Iberian Peninsula, the influence of their Germanic language on Vulgar Latin was relatively minimal. Latin remained the dominant language.
One of the most significant events in the evolution of Spanish was the arrival of the Moors, an Arab-Berber Muslim civilization, in the early 8th century. Their occupation, which lasted for nearly 800 years, left an indelible mark on the Iberian Peninsula.
During the Moorish rule, a hybrid dialect known as Mozarabic or Mozárabe developed. It fused elements of Arabic and Vulgar Latin and was spoken in areas under Moorish control, notably in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.
In the 15th century, Spanish grammarians such as Antonio de Nebrija began to formalize the language. Nebrija’s “Gramática de la lengua castellana,” published in 1492, is considered one of the first comprehensive grammars of a Romance language.
The Age of Exploration – History of Spanish Language
One of the pivotal moments in Spanish language history was the Age of Exploration. Spanish explorers like Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, and Francisco Pizarro ventured to the Americas, bringing their language with them. This marked the beginning of Spanish’s global journey.
The Spanish language spread across vast territories, leading to its establishment as the dominant language in regions of what are now known as Latin America and the southwestern United States.
The encounter between Spanish conquistadors and indigenous peoples led to linguistic fusion. Spanish incorporated many words from indigenous languages, resulting in the creation of regional dialects and a rich vocabulary that reflects the cultures of the Americas.
Spanish explorers and colonizers encountered new foods, plants, animals, and technologies in the Americas. This led to the integration of indigenous words into the Spanish language. Words like “tomate” (tomato), “chocolate,” and “cacao” were borrowed from indigenous languages and introduced to Spain and, subsequently, the broader western world. As you can also find these words in English, German, Dutch and French.
Spanish explorers, often accompanied by missionaries, played a role in spreading Christianity across the Americas. The translation of religious texts and the evangelization of indigenous populations contributed to the dissemination of the Spanish language.
Currently, over half a billion people around the world speak Spanish as their native language. Making it the second most spoken language in the world by native speakers after Mandarin-Chinese. It is an official language in 21 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina, and is widely spoken in the United States.
Did you know that Spanish is being spoken in Asia as well? The Philippines was a Spanish colony for over three centuries, from 1565 to 1898, and as a result, Spanish left a significant influence on Filipino culture and language. Today, although Spanish is no longer an official language in the Philippines, it has left its mark on Filipino society. Spanish loanwords and phrases are still present in the Filipino language, and there are communities of Spanish-speaking Filipinos, especially among those who have a Spanish heritage.
Global Business and Diplomacy
Spanish is a language of international commerce and diplomacy. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, and countless international organizations making it a valuable asset in today’s globalized society. With the growing influence of the Hispanic world proficiency in Spanish opens doors to a myriad of opportunities.