When we think about the growth of Spanish we tend to refer to the case of the United States as the most important scenario for its spread outside of the borders of Spanish-speaking countries. And this is exactly what we did in this article on our blog.
But Spanish is also growing in other countries, what is the case of Brazil, although the reasons for the phenomenon are partially different from those playing an important role in the United States. As we reflected, the main reason for the growth of Spanish in the USA is the Latin-American immigration and Spanish being the language of heritage of many newborn Americans.
As a main difference, and as we will analyse more in depth in this article, Brazil is highly influenced by its surrounding countries in South America, most of them Spanish-speaking countries. But more importantly, Brazil recognizes the usefulness and instrumentality of Spanish in that context. And this is the origin of Mercosur, one of the biggest economics blocks in the world.
Not only geographic reasons support the growth of Spanish in Brazil
Brazil shares its land border of 16,885 kilometres long with a total of 10 countries in South America, 7 of them Spanish-speaking countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Perú, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. So, logically the population of Spanish native speakers in Brazil is not small: 460,018 Spanish-speaking inhabitants.
Spanish native speakers around the world. Spanish is an official language in countries marked in orange. Ordinal numbers indicate the country's ranking position according to the number of Spanish native speakers in this particular country (also indicated by the green color code). 585 millions of Spanish speakers either as a native language or as a second/foreign language. Close to 489 millions of native Spanish speakers.
Moreover, Spanish shares with Portuguese, the official language in Brazil, the biggest percentage of vocabulary similarity, 89%, among any other languages of same origin like Italian, 82%, or French, 75%. Then, it is easy to understand that learning Spanish for a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian is not the biggest challenge.
Finally, and probably more important in the nowadays global world, Brazil is part of Mercosur together with Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and Bolivia as member states, all of them Spanish-speaking countries. Apart from this other four South American countries where Spanish is the official language are associated states of Mercosur: Chile, Colombia, Perú and Ecuador.
Therefore Mercosur, as the main economic block of the southern hemisphere, is merely a Spanish-speaking institution that ‘pushes’ Brazil towards a friendly and very open attitude regarding Spanish language. Definitely Mercosur is the most dynamic, industrial, competitive and developed engine of the Spanish-speaking world, and Brazil is an important part of it.
Inevitably Spanish is the second most spoken language in Brazil. And although English is still the most studied foreign language, the number of students of Spanish in Brazil represents the 28% of the world total, only behind the 37% corresponding to the USA students of Spanish.
According to the National Institute of Educational Studies and research Anísio Teixeira, in 2018 there were 5,184,917 students of Spanish in the basic education institutions of the whole country, assisted by a total of 28,529 teachers of Spanish. However, the total amount of Spanish learners in the whole Brazil escalates to 6,120,000 people, including not only elementary students, but secondary, university and adult learners as well.
Although the federal education policies regarding the Spanish teaching and learning in elementary and secondary education have changed in the last years without a clear leadership, different states along the country present different approaches. While big states like São Paulo, Brasilia, Paraná and Ceará guarantee the teaching of Spanish through their Centros Interescolares de Línguas (CIL), smaller ones like Pernambuco, Maranhão and Paraíba offer exchange programmes so students can enjoy studying periods in surrounding Spanish-speaking countries.
The future of Spanish in Brazil
It is clear that Spanish, regardless any the political shift in the country, will keep a preferential position among foreign languages in Brazil. And this is sure because geographical and linguistics facts that will never change, but also to important economic reasons that are underneath the origin and development of Mercosur.
Consequently the Brazilian Government has recently estimated that in just ten more years the country will count with 30 million speakers of Spanish as a foreign language. And Spain has currently a total population of 46 million native speakers. Do you still need more facts?