Today the Cervantes Institute's 73 centers, located in 42 countries on five continents, are celebrating El Día del Español - Spanish Language Day. And there's a lot to celebrate, as an article in today's El País notes: according to a report published by the Institute, Spanish is the mother tongue of 450 million people, making it second only to Chinese in terms of numbers of native speakers; and after English, it is the second most popular language for international communication.
Understandably, therefore, Spanish is very popular to study as a second language, and this has a significant economic impact on many countries, not the least of which in the mother country, España. Spanish is studied by around 20 million non-native Speakers around the world. The number of "language tourists" coming to Spain grew by 138% between 2000 and 2007. Some 237,000 students traveled to Spain to learn Spanish in 2007, while Cervantes Institute schools around the world have experienced an annual growth of 21% in student registrations. In addition, Spain is the EU country which receives the most students from the European Union's Erasmus exchange program -- 17% of those who participate in this program choose to attend a Spanish university.
There are additional factors that contribute to the economic weight of the language in Spain. For example, the country's large publishing industry has 162 subsidiaries in 28 countries around the world -- more than the 80% of them in Latin America. As for the presence of Spanish on the Internet, according to the report that is growing, too. Spanish is the third most widely used language on the Net, and this use grew 651% between 2000 and 2009. The penetration of Internet use in Spain is the highest among Spanish-speaking countries, but Chile and Argentina have levels of penetration that approach the European Union average. Spain, Mexico and Argentina are among the 20 countries with the largest number of Internet users.
For more information on El Día del Español, the official website is www.eldiae.es. To see if there is a Cervantes Institute near you, go to Instituto Cervantes: sedes en el mundo. And for those interested in studying Spanish in Spain, visit the site of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Spanish Schools for Foreigners (FEDELE).