Spanish speaking countries

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers. Here we dive into detail of the Spanish speaking countries in the world and answer the following:

-How many Spanish speakers are there in the world?
-Which countries is Spanish Spoken? (by continent)
-Which are the unofficial Spanish speaking countries?
-Can all Spanish speakers understand each other?

The Spanish Language

All languages are valuable. However, when choosing a language to learn or teach our children, we want to make sure our efforts will not be in vain.

As such a popular language around the world, it is safe to say that Spanish is a valuable language choice. Learning to speak Spanish opens doors to not just one new world but over twenty of them.

How many Spanish speakers are there in the world?

Spanish is the most widely spoken Romance language.

Around 7.6% of the global population, or 577, 256, 327 people, speak Spanish worldwide.

427 million of those people are native Spanish speakers.

Spanish Speaking Countries

Spanish speakers live everywhere!

Really!

But all joking aside, there are a number of Spanish speaking countries. You can find Spanish speakers in the Americas, Caribbean, and scattered throughout Europe and Africa.

Although Spanish speakers live around the globe, the following 21 countries claim Spanish as their official language.

Spanish speaking countries in North America

Mexico Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesMexico

Capital:
Mexico City

Number of native Spanish speakers:
113 million

Characteristics of Mexican Spanish:
Mexicans use the tú form for younger people or close relationships. They use Usted to show respect.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Güey- dude, ¡que padre/chido!- cool, ¿mande?-to ask someone to repeat something, ¡no manches!-no way!

Spanish speaking countries in Central America

Guatemala Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesGuatemala

Capital:
Guatemala City

Number of native Spanish speakers:
10 million

Characteristics of Guatemalan Spanish:
Guatemalans, and most Central Americans, use Voseo instead of the tú form.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
chapín/chapina- a Guatemalan, cerote- dude, cabal-it is all good, calidá- good or cool

Costa Rica Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesCosta Rica

Capital:
San Jose

Number of native Spanish speakers:
4 million

Characteristics of Costa Rican Spanish:
Costa Ricans use the Usted form more than tú or vos.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Tico/a- A Costa Rican, pura vida- literally “pure life” but the phrase is used frequently to say it’s all good, as a greeting or a way to say you’re welcome.

Honduras Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesHonduras

Capital:
Tegucigalpa

Number of native Spanish speakers:
8 million

Characteristics of Honduran Spanish:
Hondurans also use Voseo. Spanish is also not the only language used in Honduras. There are 10 listed dialects frequently spoken in rural areas.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Catracho/a- a person from Honduras, maje- mate, dude or idiot, güirro/a- kid, macizo- cool

El Salvador Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesEl Salvador

Capital: San Salvador

Number of native Spanish speakers: 6 million

Characteristics of El l Salvadorian Spanish:
Usted and vos are used in El Salvador instead of the tú form. El Salvadorian Spanish is very similar to the Spanish of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
¡qué chivo! – cool, lana/pisto- money, puya- wow, chucho-dog, bayunco-crazy

Nicaragua Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesNicaragua

Capital:
Managua

Number of native Spanish speakers:
5 million

Characteristics of Nicaraguan Spanish:
Voseo is very common in Nicaragua. Nahuatl also has a heavy influence on Nicaraguan Spanish

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Chunche- thing, arpení-brother, chavalo-kid

Panama Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesPanama

Capital:
Panama City

Number of native Spanish speakers:
2.5 million

Characteristics of Panamanian Spanish:
In Panama, the Spanish is similar to the Spanish heard throughout the Caribbean. The tú form is used in the majority of Panama. You will also find some English mixed into Panamanian Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
¿Qué sopa?- What’s up?, chévere- cool, pelao- dude

Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean:

Cuba Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesCuba

Capital:
Havana

Number of native Spanish speakers:
11 million

Characteristics of Cuban Spanish:
Due to the African influence on Cuban Spanish, the language sounds more rhythmic than in other countries. Cubans also tend to use the diminutive “ico” instead of “ito”.

Unique Spanish words/phrases: ¿Qué bola?- What’s up?, yuma- a foreigner (generally white/blonde), absorbente-straw, maquina- car

Dominican Republic Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesDominican Republic

Capital:
Santo Domingo

Number of native Spanish speakers:
9 million

Characteristics of Dominican Spanish:
Dominican Spanish speakers pick up the speed and drop a few sounds here and there, such as the “s” and the “d”. There is also a large Taíno influence on Dominican Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
vaina- thing, un chin- a little, bacano- cool, zafacón-trash can

Puerto Rico Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesPuerto Rico

Capital:
San Juan

Number of native Spanish speakers:
3.8 million

Characteristics of Puerto Rican Spanish:
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Therefore, you may find a bit of Spanglish (a mixture of Spanish and English) walking the streets of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans also tend to pronounce the “r” sound as an “l”.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Boricua- a Puerto Rican, hanguear- to hang out, chacho-guy

Spanish Speaking Countries in South America

Colombia Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesColombia

Capital:
Bogota

Number of native Spanish speakers:
47 million

Characteristics of Colombian Spanish:
Colombia is the second largest Spanish speaking country, in terms of number of native speakers. Colombian Spanish is said to be the clearest and easiest to understand. However, there are different dialects throughout the country and the “clear” Spanish is mainly spoken in the capital.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Parcero/a- dude, pecueca- smelly feet, bobo/a- silly, dumb

Argentina Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesArgentina

Capital:
Buenos Aires

Number of native Spanish speakers:
40 million

Characteristics of Argentinian Spanish:
Argentina and Spain are tied for the third largest Spanish speaking country in terms of the number of native speakers.
Argentinian Spanish is most known for its use of the “sh” instead of “y” when pronouncing the “ll” sound.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
Che boludo- hey dude, chabon- guy, copado- cool

Venezuela Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesVenezuela

Capital:
Caracas

Number of native Spanish speakers:
30 million

Characteristics of Venezuelan Spanish:
Due to Venezuela’s unique association with the Caribbean countries, Venezuelan Spanish mimics Caribbean Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
jema- girl, chamo- boy, bolo-money, epa- hey

Peru Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesPeru

Capital:
Lima

Number of native Spanish speakers:
26 million

Characteristics of Peruvian Spanish:
In Peru, the “r” and “rr” sounds are pronounced as a soft “j”. Peruvians also use the diminutive “ito”. Quechua is a frequently used indigenous language and some Quechua words are incorporated into Peruvian Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
pata-dude/friend, jato-house

Chile Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesChile

Capital:
Santiago

Number of native Spanish speakers:
18 million

Characteristics of Chilean Spanish:
Chilean Spanish is similar to the Spanish you would find in southern Spain mixed with Quechua and Mapudungun. Chilean Spanish also has their own conjugation, ending many words with an “ay” sound.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
pololo/a- girlfriend/boyfriend, cachai- you know

Ecuador Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesEcuador

Capital:
Quito

Number of native Spanish speakers:
14 million

Characteristics of Ecuadorian Spanish:
Ecuadorian Spanish differs greatly depending on the region. In the Andes, the language is similar to that of neighboring countries. In the Amazon, the indigenous languages largely influence their Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
guambra-child, achachay-“brrr”, chindo- just kidding, chompa- jacket, taita- dad, ñaño/a- brother/sister

Bolivia Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesBolivia

Capital:
La Paz/Sucre

Number of native Spanish speakers:
6 million

Characteristics of Bolivian Spanish:
In Bolivia, Spanish is largely influenced by the dialects spoken: Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní. Another characteristic of Bolivian Spanish is the diminutive “ingo”.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
tíli-child, la yapa- a little more, lagartear- to laze around

Paraguay Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesParaguay

Capital:
Asuncion

Number of native Spanish speakers:
4 million

Characteristics of Spanish:
Most Paraguayans speak both Guarani and Spanish. Therefore, the indigenous language largely influences Paraguayan Spanish.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
tranquilopa- It is all good. Apolar- to sleep, zarpado- extraordinary

Uruguay Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesUruguay

Capital:
Montevideo

Number of native Spanish speakers:
3 million

Characteristics of Uruguayan Spanish:
The Spanish heard in Uruguay is similar to that used in Argentina. However, you will hear the tú form used more often in Uruguay.

Unique Spanish words/phrases:
guri-child, ta-OK, bo-dude

Spanish speaking countries in Europe

Spain Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesSpain

Capital:
Madrid

Number of native Spanish speakers:
40 million

Characteristics of Castilian Spanish:
Spanish in Spain is also known as Castellano. The Spanish use vosotros instead of ustedes and the “z” and “c” sounds are pronounced as “th”.

Unique words/phrases:
tio/a- person or friend, vale-OK, bocadillo-sandwich

Spanish speaking countries in Africa

Equatorial Guinea Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesEquatorial Guinea

Capital:
Malabo

Number of native Spanish speakers:
1 million

Characteristics of Equatoguinean Spanish:
Equatorial Guinea is the smallest Spanish speaking country in terms of native speakers. It is also the only African country that claims Spanish as an official language. However, Spanish is not the only official language and is generally not the first language of the people.

Unique words/phrases:
chapear – to remove weeds

Unofficial Spanish speaking countries

In addition to the 21 official Spanish speaking countries, there are several other unofficial, and maybe even unexpected, countries with large Spanish speaking populations.

USA Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesUSA

Spanish isn’t an official language of the United States of America,. However, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English.

How many people in the USA speak Spanish?

According to a 2016 US census, there are around 40 million native Spanish speakers in the US, which makes up 17% of the US population.

However, if you include the 11.6 million bilinguals, mainly American born children of Spanish-speaking parents, the US would become the second largest Spanish speaking country.

Where do the Spanish speakers in the USA live?

Although Spanish speakers live throughout the US, the largest populations live in California, Texas, and Florida. In these three states, over half of the population is Hispanic. Large populations of Spanish speakers also reside in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York.

Where do Spanish speakers in the USA come from?

Most of the Spanish speakers in the USA come from Mexico, Cuba, or Puerto Rico. However, you can find Spanish speakers from any of the listed countries living in the USA.

Other Spanish Speaking Countries?

Andorra Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesAndorra

A small country found between France and Spain, boasts roughly 30,000 native Spanish speakers, or around 60% of the country’s population.

Gibraltar Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesGibraltar

Technically an English speaking territory, however, almost half of Gibraltar’s population are native Spanish speakers because it so closely borders Spain.

Morocco Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesMorocco

Located right below Spain. As a result, around 20% of Morocco’s population is native Spanish speakers.

Belize Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesBelize

Has over 100,000 native Spanish speakers, even though English is the official language.

Aruba Flag - Spanish Speaking CountriesAruba

Official languages are Dutch and Papiamento. However, most Arubans are impressively multilingual, speaking the two official languages plus English and Spanish. Therefore, 75% of Aruba’s population are also native Spanish speakers.

Can all Spanish speakers understand each other?

If you focus on all the different accents, colloquialisms and regional phrases, learning Spanish can feel like a lost cause. However, the good news is that despite the differences in dialects, Spanish speakers can understand each other across the borders.

The differences between the dialects of Spanish are similar to the differences between British and American English. Although there are some words and phrases that will cause us to laugh or take a second to decipher, we can hold a conversation with ease and minimal misunderstandings.

Spanish speaking countries around the world

Want to learn Spanish?

If you are considering adding Spanish to your or your child’s repertoire, take the leap. You are in good company with the numerous Spanish speaking countries around the world. With over 500 million language friends, you will never be alone. Take a look at our Spanish for Kids series here!

Author: Vanessa Ruiz is a language lover with a BA in Spanish and English as a Second Language. When she isn’t working to support immigrant families their efforts to raise bilingual children, you will find Vanessa writing or playing with her own bilingual child.