Friday, March 14, 2008

They Speak Spanish as a First or Official Language WHERE?

English Language Teaching:
They Speak Spanish as a First or Official Language WHERE?

Spanish as a First or Official Language
Often, when I teach or speak before of group of English language teachers in Latin America, I like to ask the question, “How many countries are there which have Spanish as a FIRST or OFFICIAL language?” “You ARE all native Spanish speakers, aren’t you? I say, teasing them a bit. A few minutes then pass as I wait for the group to “sweat it out”.

By the way, how many of these countries can YOU name?

Then, mercifully, I offer a response after taking an assortment of guesses ranging from half a dozen or so to fifteen or fifty. The following countries each have Spanish either as an official or first language.

In North America
The North American continent, home to only three countries, has two of them with Spanish as a first or official language.

• United States (oh yes, it is!)
• Mexico

In Europe
In Europe, one of the world’s great melting pots, several countries claim English as a first or official language.

• Spain
• Portugal (by the way, Portuguese is in the same language family as Spanish)

In the West Indies
In the West Indies or Caribbean, formerly a virtual hotbed of colonization, several island nations have a form of spoken English.

• Cuba
• Puerto Rico
• Dominican Republic

In Central America
If you though only Spanish is spoken “south of the border”, you’d be wrong. There are three countries which use English as a first or official language. There are fifteen countries with Spanish as a first or official language. They are:

• Guatemala
• Honduras
• El Salvador
• Nicaragua
• Costa Rica
• Panama

In South America
Passing from Central America into South America as you head south from Panama, these countries have Spanish as a first or official language.

• Colombia
• Venezuela
• Ecuador
• Peru
• Bolivia
• Chile
• Argentina
• Uruguay
• Paraguay

In Africa
I know what you’re thinking. Africa? There are no Spanish-speaking countries in Africa! Oh yes there are – there’s one! Surprised? So was I. Most people are. The officially Spanish-speaking country in Africa is (drum roll, please):

Equatorial New Guinea

Why Learn Spanish?
Spanish has been a widespread and useful “Lingua Franca” for centuries. It still is. So when your Spanish as a foreign language learners ask, “Why learn Spanish?” you’ll have some new ammunition with which to respond to them as a foreign language teaching professional.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at:


Lobisome said...

Just wondering... if you counted Portugal as "sort-of" spanish-speaking country... where's Brazil on your list? and Mozambique?

Regards from Catalombia ;)

Larry said...

Both Brazil and Mozambique do not have sufficient cross-cultural exchanges between neighboring countries to have Spanish as a relevant lingua franca. In Brazil, for example, most of the border with Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and its other Spanish-speaking neighborsis largely uninhabited or virgin rain forest with no roads or frequent travel or trade routes. Numerous venues however exist between Portugal and Spain with residents of both countries freely exchanging commodities, travel and other exchanges so conversant knowledge of Spanish as a lingua franca is helpful to both sides of the border.