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The Case For Spanish or Portuguese

Why study Spanish?







Map of the Spanish-speaking world at Wikipedia or the U.S. at MLA

  • There are 328,518,810 Spanish speakers worldwide, putting it second only to Chinese for total number of native speakers.
  • In the US, it is used by some 35 million people or around 10% of the US population. This makes the US home to the fourth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world.
  • Spanish is the fourth most widely geographically used language in the world, spanning 44 countries.
  • It is the official language of 21 countries.
  • It serves as the most commonly taught foreign language in the United States.
  • 68.8% of high school students and 52.2% of post-secondary students with world language programs choose to study Spanish.
  • It serves as an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, World Trade Organization, and North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • It is the third most commonly used language on the Internet (after English and Chinese).
  • Hispanic citizens make up 15.4% of the US population and the second largest ethnic group.
  • There are more than 5,000 elected US officials who are of Latino/Hispanic origin.

Spanish has been spoken in the US for centuries, and it is used in many different ways today.

  • It began being used in what is now the US in 1513 (almost five centuries ago) by Ponce de León. Spanish was the language spoken by the first permanent European settlers and explorers.
  • Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer, traveled from Florida to the Gulf of California 267 years before the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Spanish is a part of our popular culture, with shows like "Dora the Explorer," "The George Lopez Show," and "Ugly Betty," as well as the language of major networks such as Univisión and Telemundo. 
  • Spanish influence is evident in place names: states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, Florida, California, and Arizona all come from Spanish words; cities and regions such as Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Alcatraz, Toledo, Sante Fe, and Las Vegas, to name a only handful, are also of Spanish origin.


Why study Portuguese?








Map of the Portuguese-speaking world at Wikipedia or the U.S. at MLA

  • With its number of speakers reaching 178 million, Portuguese has the seventh largest number of speakers of any world language.
  • It serves as the official language of nine countries and is spoken in at least thirty-four countries.
  • Portuguese is the fourth most learned language in the world; 28 million people know it or are learning it as a second language.
  • It serves as an official language of the European Union.
  • There are 687,126 speakers in the United States who can be found in communities across the nation.
  • Knowledge of Portuguese is a very marketable skill because of its widespread use around the world.
  • Brazil, home to 154 million Portuguese speakers, is said to be the eighth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and it continues to grow.

Portuguese influence in the United States:

  • Portuguese navigators have been traveling the area that is now the United States since 1634.
  • Portuguese is spoken in communities in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
  • There are many English words of Portuguese origin, including words for animals like flamingo, mosquito, cobra, and zebra, and other words like bossa nova, embarrass, marmalade, and molasses.
  • The Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey is known as "Little Portugal," and they celebrate Portugal Day with a festival every year near June 10. 

Spanish and Portuguese are used all over the world, in places where you can travel for leisure or business.

Below are the government sites for all the countries in which these languages are a majority language:


*Spanish-only websites



*Portuguese-only websites

Fun facts, recent news, and quick reads on the languages:

Angola Press: Portuguese Goes Global

CENGAGE Learning: Spanish Web Resources

Go Lisbon: The Portuguese Language

IMAC: Why learn Spanish?

Learn Spanish: tutorials and resources to aid in Spanish learning

PEW Hispanic Center's Research, data, and articles about Hispanics and Spanish

Portuguese Language: statistics, history, and resources for the Portuguese language

Spain's President of the Government believes Spanish is "a source of wealth and development"

Vistawide's Why learn Spanish? Ten great reasons...


Famous Hispanics and Luso-Americans: provides a list of famous Hispanics with short biographies

Wikipedia's "Luso-American" page provides a list of famous Luso-Americans

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