SOAS University of London

SOAS Language Centre

Spanish at SOAS Language Centre

Spanish is a true language giant. With the exception of Chinese and English, Spanish has the greatest number of speakers of any language, with an estimated 500 million - far greater than the neighbouring (and related) Portuguese and French. In the United States, the number of people learning Spanish as a foreign language is higher than for all other foreign languages put together and, in the United Kingdom, it is third in terms of popularity, after French and German.

Despite being transported outside of Europe during a period of colonial expansion that saw the conquest of Central and South America, Spanish appears never to have been a serious contender in terms of establishing itself as a language of trade or settlement in Africa. That said, it is the national language of Equatorial Guinea, where it is spoken by around a million people, as well as being the language of the Spanish enclaves in northwest Africa and of the Canary Islands.

Despite great territorial successes in the Americas, Spanish failed to gain much of a foothold in Asia, unlike other languages associated with European expansion (i.e. English, Dutch, French and Portuguese).  The exception is the Philippines, where Spanish was introduced in the mid-sixteenth century from South America.  Spanish was official until 1987, when it was finally ousted in favour of Filipino and English. There are an estimated two million speakers of Spanish in the Philippines.

Spanish has the reputation of being a relatively easy language to ‘pick up’ for speakers of English. Not only is it written in the Roman alphabet, as are the majority of the languages of Europe, but it also has a relatively straightforward grammatical structure. The increasing popularity of Spanish-language films, courtesy of a booming cinematic industry, especially from Spain and Mexico, has added to the appeal of acquiring Spanish.

SOAS Language Centre offers the following for Spanish: