Every month this year, we will be turning our focus towards one of the core languages we love to teach – looking at the language’s potential for business, considering a few facts and figures to put its global prospects in context, plus sharing some tips to help you get started. This month we take a look at Spanish, a language that is spoken in numerous countries around the world.
Spain’s population of 46 million people is far from the centre of the world’s Spanish speakers. Over 660 million people around the world speak Spanish, making it the third most spoken language after English and Mandarin Chinese. The majority of Spanish speakers are actually located in Central and South America, with hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers across countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Ecuador. With such a vast transatlantic and cross-continental reach, there are plenty of great reasons to learn Spanish for business.
Business Prospects and Opportunities
One of the most convincing arguments for learning Spanish is that it truly widens your access to global businesses. It connects businesses to significant emerging economies such as Mexico (one of the MINT countries – consisting of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey), as well as smaller countries with less established but promising economies. Mexico is the second largest Latin American economy (after Portuguese-speaking Brazil, one of the BRICS) and it is currently the 15th largest economy in the world.
While the diversity of opportunity may be great, this comes with some risks. The MINT countries certainly offer fast-growing economies for investment, but they are prone to corruption and political instability, and vulnerable to economic crises. COVID-19 has no doubt exacerbated these concerns – Latin America has been particularly affected by the pandemic – but with youthful populations and a diversity of industries to fall back on (including primary industries and those with a focus on digital technologies), Mexico and many of the other Latin American countries may see a more positive recovery in the longer term.
If the gamble of emerging economies seems too high-risk while the pandemic continues to influence the global economy, you may feel more comfortable looking closer to home at Spain itself, one of the FIGS (the established economies France, Italy, Germany and Spain). The fallout from Brexit may be another factor on your mind here too, but 2021 should see the relationship between the UK and the EU become more predictable and manageable – and hopefully one that has clear opportunities for business growth.
It is little wonder that the British Council believes that Spanish is the number one language required for the future success of the UK economy.
Did You Know? A Few Facts about Spanish
Spanish is likely to be your go-to language if you intend to work with Spanish or Latin American business partners (or you have plans to move your business into Spain or Latin America). Of course, right now a physical move or visit may not be feasible, but digital technology means that we can still conduct business ‘virtually’ in person.
Here are a few useful facts to know about Spanish before you get started on your language-learning journey.
- The language we know as ‘Spanish’, which is also known as ‘Castilian’ Spanish, is not the only language spoken in Spain, which has a number of regional languages – including Catalan, Galician, Basque and Valencian. Most people in Spain can speak both Castilian Spanish as well as their regional language (where present).
- Castilian Spanish is the language the rest of the world (including the Americas) understands as Spanish, though there are small variations from country to country and region to region. Castilian Spanish is therefore the predominant language of Spanish cinema, television and translated literature.
- Spanish appeared in Central and South America when the Spanish began to colonise the Americas in the late 15th century. Today, it is the official language for many Central and South American countries. It is also spoken by over 40 million residents of the United States, a number that is expected to grow in the years ahead.
- Spanish is barely spoken in the Philippines these days (Spain lost control of the country in the late 19th century), but over a third of the words in the Filipino language are derived from Spanish, and Spanish speakers can command greater salaries in the Philippines. Perhaps Spanish is heading for a revival in this corner of Asia?
- When the time to travel freely comes around again post-COVID, the world is your oyster! As your Spanish language expertise grows, so too should your ability to ‘get by’ and develop your skills in the other romance languages (such as Italian, French and Portuguese) – which could form the basis for an amazing trip around Europe. And of course, a solid foundation of Spanish can take you across Latin America, where Spanish is the predominant language.
Click here for more facts and figures about Spanish language and culture.
Tips to Help You Get Started
Learning any new language can feel like a daunting challenge, but Spanish may well seem like an achievable target: it is a European language, it uses the Latin alphabet and it includes plenty of familiar words. Here are a few helpful tips to help you develop your language skills.
- Pronunciation can make all the difference, so listen out for opportunities to hear Spanish in action. One easy way to do this is to watch a Spanish film with English subtitles. You are spoilt for choice with Spanish cinema – some of the finest actors and directors working today are busy making Spanish language films, even Hollywood-grade celebrities such as Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. Rummage through Netflix and you will surely find some Spanish language classics you can both enjoy and learn from, such as films by Guillermo del Toro, Pedro Almodóvar and Alfonso Cuarón (whose Mexico City-set film Roma nearly became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars).
- Don’t forget to speak! Listening is important, but saying the words aloud has the power to cement the words in your mind. A language training course can be helpful here, or perhaps you have a friend or colleague who is also learning the language – if so, set up a regular call to chat about your progress, practise the language and develop your confidence – and perhaps even plan that future trip to Europe or Latin America.
- Remember why you are learning. Perhaps you are looking for a new challenge and learning a language fits the bill, but the chances are you have a more powerful reason – a career change, a business opportunity, a future overseas move. Look ahead and keep your eye on your own prize, however big or small, to help you stay motivated.
If you would like to find out more about learning Spanish to help you grow your business in Europe, Central and South America, and around the world, contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan for your business, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your global colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.