List of countries where Spanish is an official language
Spanish as official language or national language
Spanish is the majority language in 21 sovereign states and several dependent territories, totaling around 442 million people.
In these countries and territories, Spanish is the main or only 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.
a In Spain, Spanish is the sole official language at the national level, while the languages of Basque, Catalan/Valencian, and Galician are co-official alongside Spanish in certain sub-national regions.
c In Ecuador, Spanish is the sole official language at the national level while the Kichwa language holds co-official status in selected regions.
d In Bolivia, the national constitution recognizes Spanish and various indigenous languages of Bolivia as official at the national level, though Spanish is predominant nationwide.
e In Paraguay, Spanish and the indigenous Guaraní language are recognized as co-official at the national level and both are widely used in society.
f Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. where Spanish and English are the official languages and Spanish is the primary language. In November 2008 a district court judge ruled that a sequence of Congressional actions have had the cumulative effect of changing Puerto Rico's status to incorporated. However, by April 2011 the issue had not yet made its way through the courts, and in January 2013 the U.S. government still referred to Puerto Rico as unincorporated.
g 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 and several Bantu languages are used at home and family settings.
Commonly used language
Though not an official language at the national level, Spanish is regularly spoken by at least 10% of the population in each of the nations and territories noted below. In each, public services and information are widely available in Spanish, as are various forms of printed and broadcast media.
Spanish has been spoken in the United States for several centuries, particularly in the Southwest and Florida, which were all once part of New Spain. Spanish is the most studied foreign language in United States schools and is spoken as a native tongue by 35,437,985 people, who comprise 12.19% of the population. It is also de facto official in the U.S. state of New Mexico along with English and is increasingly used alongside English nationwide in business and politics. With over 50 million native speakers and second language speakers, the United States now has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico. In the United States, it is regulated by the North American Academy of the Spanish Language.
The Spanish language is not official but also holds a special status (in the education system, the media, and some official documents) in the Principality of Andorra and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, both of which share land borders with Spain. Spanish has no official recognition in the Central American nation of Belize, a Commonwealth realm where English is the official national language. However, the country shares land borders with Spanish-speaking Mexico and Guatemala and, per the 2000 Belizean census, Spanish is spoken by a sizable portion of the population there.
|Total speakers||Percentage Spanish-speaking|
|Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republica||100,000 - 500,000||20,000||unspecified|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,223,916||61,000||5%|
a The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a partially recognized state which claims the disputed region of Western Sahara. The SADR declares Spanish and Arabic to be its official languages and Spanish is commonly used in the public sphere within Sahrawi communities.
Spanish-based creole language
The Spanish-based creole language of Papiamentoa is official in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Chavacano is spoken in the Philippines, and Palenquero is spoken in Colombia; but neither is official in their respective countries. The Chamorro language is spoken in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, where it is a co-official language. Judaeo-Spanish is spoken by Sephardi Jews.
|Country||Creole language||Estimated speakers||Year||Status|
|Bonaire and Curaçao||Papiamento||185,155||1981||Official.|
|Israel||Judaeo-Spanish||96,000||N/A||Not official.|
|Aruba||Papiamento||60,000||N/A||Official.|
|Guam||Chamorro||60,000||N/A||Official.|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Chamorro||60,000||N/A||Official.|
Former official language
Spanish was an 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.
On 8 August 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that the Philippine government asked help from the Spanish Government in her plan to reintroduce Spanish as a required subject in the Philippine school system. By 2012, the language was a compulsory subject at only a very select number of secondary schools. Despite government promotions of Spanish, less than 0.5% of the population are able to speak Spanish at least proficiently.
While Spanish is designated as an optional government language in the Philippines, its usage is very limited and not present in everyday life. In the country, Spanish is regulated by the Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language.
International organizations where Spanish is official
- United Nations (UN)
- European Union (EU)
- Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)
- African Union (AU)
- Central American Integration System (SICA)
- Latin American Parliament (Parlatino)
- United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
- Organization of American States (OAS)
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
- Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI)
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- Andean Community of Nations (CAN)
- Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
- Latin American Integration Association (ALADI)
- Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (ATS)
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- Latin Union
- Pacific Alliance
- Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
- "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2009-08-11. Cite error: Invalid
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- Mexico does not have an official language at the federal level ; however, Spanish is the national language and spoken by the majority.
- Spanish Constitution, Art. 3-1
- Constitution of Colombia, Art. 10
- The Argentine Constitution does not establish Spanish as an official language.
- Constitution of Peru, Art. 48
- Constitution of Venezuela, Art. 9
- 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.)
- Constitution of Ecuador, Art. 2
- Constitution of Guatemala, Art. 143
- Constitution of Cuba, Art. 2
- Constitution of Bolivia, Art. 5
- The Constitution of the Dominican Republic establish Spanish as it official language.
- Constitution of Honduras, Art. 6
- Constitution of Paraguay, Art. 140
- Constitution of El Salvador, Art. 62
- The Constitution of Nicaragua does not establish Spanish as an official language.
- Constitution of Costa Rica, Art. 76
- Constitution of Puerto Rico, 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.
- Constitution of Panama, Art. 7
- The Constitution of Uruguay does not establish Spanish as an official language.
- Constitution of Equatorial Guinea, Art. 4
- Consejo de Salud Playa Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, p.28: "The Congressional incorporation of Puerto Rico throughout the past century has extended the entire Constitution to the island ...."
- Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpi, "The Insular Cases: A Comparative Historical Study of Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and the Philippines", The Federal Lawyer, March/April 2011. http://www.aspira.org/files/legal_opinion_on_pr_insular_cases.pdf p. 25: "In light of the [Supreme Court] ruling in Boumediene, in the future the Supreme Court will be called upon to reexamine the Insular Cases doctrine as applied to Puerto Rico and other US territories."
- accessed 26 January 2013: "Puerto Rico is a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Caribbean".
- "Más 'speak spanish' que en España". Retrieved 2007-10-06. (Spanish)
- <Constitution of Gibraltar
- "Population Census, Major Findings" (PDF). Belize: Central Statistical Office, Ministry of Budget Management. 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- "Ethnologue". Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Número de hispanohablantes en países y territorios donde el español no es lengua oficial, Instituto Cervantes.
- Attila Narin (June 1998). "Papiamentu Facts". Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Dalby, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of Languages. Bloomsbury Publishing plc. p. 489. ISBN 0-7475-3117-X.
- 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.
- "La presidenta filipina pedirá ayuda a España para oficializar el español" (in Spanish). MSN Noticias. Archived from the original on 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Legaspi, Amita O. (3 July 2012). "PNoy (President Benigno Aquino III) and Spain’s Queen Sofia welcome return of Spanish language in Philippine schools". GMA News.
- Medium projection, PH: National Statistics Office, Mid-2010 Check date values in:
- <Constitution of the Philippines, Art. 14