List of countries and territories where Spanish is an official language

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  Official language
  Co-official language

The following is a list of countries where Spanish is an official language, plus several countries where Spanish or any language closely related to it, is an important or significant language.

Official or national language[edit]

Spanish is the official language (either by law or de facto) in 20 sovereign states (including Equatorial Guinea, where it is official but not a native language), one dependent territory, and one partially recognized state, totaling around 442 million people.[1][2]

Primary or only official language[edit]

In the these countries and territories, Spanish is the main or mostly used language of communication of the vast majority of the population; official documents are written chiefly or solely in that language; and it is taught in schools and utilized as the primary medium of instruction as part of the official curriculum.

Sovereign states[edit]

Sovereign state Status Population
Regulatory body More information
 Mexico De facto[4] 130,207,371 Academia Mexicana de la Lengua Mexican Spanish
 Colombia De jure[5] 50,355,650 Academia Colombiana de la Lengua Colombian Spanish
 Spain[a] De jure[6] 47,260,584 Real Academia Española Peninsular Spanish
 Argentina De facto[7] 45,864,941 Academia Argentina de Letras Rioplatense Spanish
 Peru De jure[8] 32,201,224 Academia Peruana de la Lengua Peruvian Spanish
 Venezuela De jure[9] 29,069,153 Academia Venezolana de la Lengua Venezuelan Spanish
 Chile De facto[10] 18,307,925 Academia Chilena de la Lengua Chilean Spanish
 Guatemala De jure[11] 17,422,821 Academia Guatemalteca de la Lengua Guatemalan Spanish
 Ecuador[b] De jure[12] 17,093,159 Academia Ecuatoriana de la Lengua Ecuadorian Spanish
 Bolivia[c] De jure[13] 11,758,869 Academia Boliviana de la Lengua Bolivian Spanish
 Cuba De jure[14] 11,032,343 Academia Cubana de la Lengua Cuban Spanish
 Dominican Republic De jure[15] 10,597,348 Academia Dominicana de la Lengua Dominican Spanish
 Honduras De jure[16] 9,346,277 Academia Hondureña de la Lengua Honduran Spanish
 Paraguay[d] De jure[17] 7,272,639 Academia Paraguaya de la Lengua Española Paraguayan Spanish
 El Salvador De jure[18] 6,528,135 Academia Salvadoreña de la Lengua Salvadoran Spanish
 Nicaragua De jure[19] 6,243,931 Academia Nicaragüense de la Lengua Nicaraguan Spanish
 Costa Rica De jure[20] 5,151,140 Academia Costarricense de la Lengua Costa Rican Spanish
 Panama De jure[21] 3,928,646 Academia Panameña de la Lengua Panamanian Spanish
 Uruguay De facto[22] 3,398,239 Academia Nacional de Letras Uruguayan Spanish
 Equatorial Guinea[e] De jure[23] 1,468,777 Academia Ecuatoguineana de la Lengua Española Equatoguinean Spanish
Total 464,509,172 Association of Academies of the Spanish Language


Territory Status Population
Regulatory body More information
 Puerto Rico[f] De jure[25] 3,142,779 Academia Puertorriqueña de la Lengua Española Puerto Rican Spanish

Secondary official language[edit]

Spanish is a secondary language, co-official with Arabic as the primary language.

Partially recognized state[edit]

State Status More information
 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[g] De facto[26] Saharan Spanish


  1. ^ In Spain, Spanish is the sole official language at the national level, while Basque, Catalan/Valencian, Aranese, and Galician are co-official alongside Spanish in certain regions.
  2. ^ In Ecuador, Spanish is the sole official language at the national level while the Kichwa (Northern Quechua) and Shuar languages hold co-official status in selected regions.
  3. ^ In Bolivia, the national constitution recognizes Spanish and various indigenous languages of Bolivia as official at the national level, though Spanish is predominant nationwide.
  4. ^ In Paraguay, Spanish and the indigenous Guaraní are recognized as co-official at the national level and both are widely used in society.
  5. ^ In Equatorial Guinea, the Spanish, French, and Portuguese languages all hold official status at the national level, though Spanish is the primary language in the public sphere while Fang, Bube, Kombe, and other Bantu languages, as well as an English-based creole, are used at home and family settings.
  6. ^ Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. where Spanish and English are the official languages and Spanish is the primary language.
  7. ^ The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a partially recognized state, recognized by 46 UN member states, which claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara.

Significant language[edit]

Though not an official language at the national level, Spanish is regularly spoken by significant populations throughout these countries. Public services, education, and information are widely available in Spanish, as are various forms of printed and broadcast media.

Territory Population
Total speakers Percentage
 Andorra 85,468 ~40,000 48.6%
 Belize 419,137 165,296 (year 2010)[27] 56.6% (year 2010)[27]
 Gibraltar 34,003 25,500 75%
 United States 339,665,118 ~60,000,000 19%


Spanish is not the official language of Andorra but holds a special status in some fields, namely in education and business.[28] Public education in Spanish (following the Spanish public education system) is offered in the country. It is the second-most spoken language in the country, with nearly half of the population conversant in Spanish, rivaling the official Catalan in both native and total speaker numbers.[29] Spanish has also emerged as the lingua franca between various linguistic groups and in the commercial sector, which has triggered government efforts to promote the more general and universal use of Catalan.[30] In 2008, 30.8% of students were enrolled in the Spanish education system.[31]


Spanish has no official recognition in the Central American nation of Belize, a Commonwealth of Nations member state where English is the official national language. However, the country shares land borders with Spanish-speaking Mexico and Guatemala and, per the 2010 Belizean census, Spanish is spoken by a sizable portion of the population; 30% claim Spanish as a mother tongue and about 50% of the population has a working knowledge of the language.[32] The Census Report 2010 reported that 56.6% of Belizeans spoke Spanish.[27]


Spanish is not official in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, which shares its only land border with Spain. Nevertheless, Spanish is compulsory for secondary school students and a mixture of Spanish and English called Llanito is colloquially spoken among most inhabitants. Recent trends since the 2000s have found, however, that Spanish proficiency and usage among younger generations is declining as members of these groups tend to use English exclusively.[33][34]

United States[edit]

Percentage of the U.S. population aged 5 and over who speaks Spanish at home in 2019, by US States.

Spanish has been spoken in the United States for several centuries in the Southwest and Florida, which were all once part of New Spain. However, today only a minority of Spanish speakers in the U.S. trace their language back to those times; the overwhelming majority of speakers come from recent immigration. Only in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado there have been Spanish-speaking communities uninterruptedly since colonial times.[35]

Spanish is the most studied foreign language in United States schools and is spoken as a native tongue by 41 million people, plus an additional 11 million fluent second-language speakers.[36] Though not official, Spanish has a special status in the American state of New Mexico.[37] With almost 60 million native speakers and second language speakers, the United States now has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico.[38] Spanish is increasingly used alongside English nationwide in business and politics. Media in Spanish has also become influential outside of native Hispanophone circles.[39][40] In the United States, the language is regulated by the North American Academy of the Spanish Language.

Officially recognized status[edit]


Spanish was the official language of the Philippines from the beginning of the Hispanic period in 1565 and through independence until a constitutional change in 1973. However, President Ferdinand Marcos had Spanish redesignated as an official language under Presidential Decree No. 156, dated 15 March 1973 and Spanish remained official until 1987, when it was re-designated as a voluntary and optional auxiliary language.[41] Additionally, the present Philippine Constitution, in its Article XIV,[42] stipulates that the Government shall provide the people of the Philippines with a Spanish-language translation of the Constitution.[43] The article was invoked and applied when, in 2015, Senator Loren Legarda introduced a Senate Bill requesting an act intended to provide translations of the Philippine Constitution into several specific languages, including Spanish.[44] The bill was accepted and approved.[45] Beyond the Constitution, the Philippine Department of Education issued DECS Order No. 33 in 1987, requiring schools to include Spanish and Arabic when offering foreign language courses, pointing out the relevance of both languages "in the development of Philippine history and culture".[46]

On 8 August 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced that the Philippine government asked for help from the Spanish Government in her plan to reintroduce Spanish as a required subject in the Philippine school system.[47] By 2012, the language was a compulsory subject at only a very select number of secondary schools.[48] Despite government promotion of Spanish, only about 400,000 people, which accounts for under 0.5% of the population, can speak Spanish at least proficiently.[49][50]

While Spanish is designated as an optional government language in the Philippines, its usage is very limited and not present in everyday life. Despite this, Tagalog and other native Philippine languages incorporate a large number of Spanish loanwords, as a result of 300 years of Spanish influence. In the country, Spanish is regulated by the Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language.

Other legal status[edit]

Western Sahara[edit]

Spanish is an official language, alongside Arabic, of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic,[51] a partially recognized state that claims Western Sahara. The territory, a former Spanish colony now mostly occupied by Morocco, is regarded as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations. Although Spanish is not commonly spoken as a native language in Western Sahara, it is widely used as a secondary language in the region's SADR-controlled area, while the Moroccan government uses Arabic and French in administrating the Moroccan-occupied area.[52][53]

Creole languages[edit]

There are several Spanish-based creole languages. Chavacano is spoken in Zamboanga City in the Philippines and is a regional language.[54] Papiamento is the official language in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao; it has been classified as either a Spanish-based or a Portuguese-based creole.[55][56]

Chamorro is an Austronesian language with many Spanish loanwords; some scholars have considered it a creole, but the most authoritative sources deny this.[57]

Country Creole language Estimated
Year Status
 Aruba Papiamento ~100,000[59] Official[60]
 Caribbean Netherlands Papiamento Official[61]
 Curaçao Papiamento 185,155[62] 1981 Official[63]
 Philippines Chavacano 689,000[62] 1992 Regional[54]


Judeo-Spanish (sometimes known as Ladino or other names) is a language derived from medieval Spanish; it is still spoken by some Sephardi Jews, mainly in Israel.[64]

International organizations[edit]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Spanish-Speaking Countries — Berges Institute". Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  3. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  4. ^ Mexico does not have an official language at the federal level [1]; however, Spanish is spoken by the majority.
  5. ^ Constitution of Colombia, Art. 10
  6. ^ Spanish Constitution Archived 2 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Art. 3-1
  7. ^ The Argentine Constitution does not establish Spanish as an official language.
  8. ^ Constitution of Peru, Art. 48
  9. ^ Constitution of Venezuela, Art. 9
  10. ^ The Constitution of Chile does not establish Spanish as an official language. However, Chilean legislation establishes that schools must teach students to communicate in the "Castilian language" (General Law on Education (Articles 29 and 30), Chile Library of Congress.)
  11. ^ Constitution of Guatemala, Art. 143
  12. ^ Constitution of Ecuador, Art. 2
  13. ^ Constitution of Bolivia, Art. 5
  14. ^ Constitution of Cuba Archived 2 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Art. 2
  15. ^ Constitution of the Dominican Republic, Art. 29
  16. ^ Constitution of Honduras, Art. 6
  17. ^ Constitution of Paraguay, Art. 140
  18. ^ Constitution of El Salvador, Art. 62
  19. ^ Constitution of Nicaragua, Art. 11
  20. ^ Constitution of Costa Rica, Art. 76
  21. ^ Constitution of Panama, Art. 7
  22. ^ The Constitution of Uruguay does not establish Spanish as an official language.
  23. ^ Constitution of Equatorial Guinea Archived 1 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Art. 4
  24. ^ "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  25. ^ Constitution of Puerto Rico Archived 19 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Art. 3, Section 5: It is mandatory to be able to read and write in either English or Spanish in order to be a member of the Legislative Assembly.
  26. ^ The Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic does not establish Spanish as an official language. However, Spanish is the country's secondary language, used on official emblems, currency, government agencies, embassies and educational institutions. Additionally, several political figures, including the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Brahim Ghali, have described Spanish as one of the official languages of the country.
  27. ^ a b c "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 24 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Observatori de l'Institut d'Estudis Andorrans" (in Catalan). Archived from the original on 17 July 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  29. ^ Presentació dels resultats de l'enquesta de coneixements i usos lingüístics del 2022, Government of Andorra, 2022. (in Catalan).
  30. ^ Molla, Guillem (2003). "El català a Andorra: tota una lluita" (PDF). Ianua: Revista philologica romanica (in Italian). 4: 73–90. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2013.
  31. ^ "Departament d'Estadística". Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  32. ^ Statistical Institute of Belize: Belize Population and Housing Census 2010. Country Report. Belmopan 2013.
  33. ^ Buck, Tobias. Gibraltar fears loss of identity over Yanito decline, Financial Times, 6 April 2017.
  34. ^ Barahona, Pepe. Why the Spanish language is losing ground in Gibraltar, El País, 14 August 2019.
  35. ^ Canfield, Delos Lincoln (1981). Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas. The University of Chicago Press. p. 80. The main nuclei of Spanish speech in the United States are northern New Mexico / southern Colorado, the border territories from California through Texas, the Florida peninsula, New York City, and other large cities of the Northeast and Midwest. Only one of these, the New Mexico / Colorado dialect area, has maintained linguistic continuity since colonial days, and its speech goes back to about 1600.
  36. ^ "US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain". The Guardian. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  37. ^ "Language Rights and New Mexico Statehood By the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  38. ^ "Más 'speak spanish' que en España". Retrieved 6 October 2007. (Spanish)
  39. ^ de Varona, Paola (24 June 2019). "We're living in an American renaissance for Spanish-language television". The Outline. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  40. ^ Garay, Ryan. Música bilingüe: How America shaped its own Spanish-language hits, The Daily Californian, 1 December 2022.
  41. ^ Article XIV, Sec 7: For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein. Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.
  42. ^ Article XIV, Sec 8: This Constitution shall be promulgated in Filipino and English and shall be translated into major regional languages, Arabic, and Spanish.
  43. ^ Constitution of the Philippines, Art. 14
  44. ^ Ager, Maila (5 August 2015). "Legarda wants Filipino, Spanish, Arabic versions of Constitution". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  45. ^ "Senate Bill No. 2862: Providing for an official Filipino version of the Philippine Constitution and its translation into major regional languages, Arabic, and Spanish, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes" (PDF). Senate of the Philippines.
  46. ^ "DO 46, s. 1987 – Amendment to DECS Order No. 33, s. 1987 (Spanish as Optional Subject)". Philippine Department of Education. 14 August 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2023. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
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  50. ^ Medium projection, Philippine Statistics Authority, 2010, archived from the original on 11 August 2011
  51. ^ "الوفد الصحراوي سيحضر لقاء جنيف بإرادة صادقة للتقدم نحو الحل الذي يضمن حق الشعب الصحراوي في تقرير المصير والاستقلال". Sahara Press Service (in Arabic). 29 November 2018.
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  54. ^ a b DepEd adds 7 languages to mother tongue-based education for Kinder to Grade 3. GMA News. 13 July 2013.
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  57. ^ Topping, Donald (1973). Chamorro Reference Grammar. University Press of Hawaii. pp. 6 and 7. ISBN 978-0-8248-0269-1.
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