¡Hola, queridos estudiantes! Are you thinking of taking up Spanish? You're not alone! Spanish is one of the most popular languages to study all around the world, and there's good reason for that: Spanish is spoken by over 400 million people worldwide and the Spanish-speaking diaspora is truly global—there are more than 40 million Spanish speakers in just the U.S.! So you might find yourself using Spanish on your next vacation (it's the official language in 20 countries)… or on your next neighborhood walk! ¿Increíble, no?
Spanish has also grown to be one of the most popular languages to study, ranking #2 globally (English is #1). Spanish is the #1 language to study in 31 countries, including Denmark, New Zealand, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, the U.K., and the U.S. Duolingo offers seven Spanish courses for learners who speak different languages, and they're some of our most popular courses:
- Our Spanish course for English speakers has 30.5 million learners
- The Spanish course for Portuguese speakers has over 2.91 million learners
- There are over 2 million learners in our Spanish course for French speakers
- Our Spanish course for German speakers has 1.42 million learners
What has got all these learners excited about studying Spanish? Read on for some of our favorite facts about this global language!
What new learners should know about Spanish
Spanish—the language of Bad Bunny (the world's most-streamed artist!), Ana de Armas, Gabriel García Márquez, Frida Kahlo, Juan Toscano, Rafael Nadal, and Shakira—is a Romance language like Italian, Portuguese, and French, which all developed from Latin. Spanish also has a lot in common with its more distant cousins English and German (as well as with many other languages from across Europe). So if you already know one of those languages, that will help you to learn Spanish! ¡Qué bueno! Here are a few other fun things to know before you start learning:
- In most cases, to make a noun plural in Spanish, you add an -s, just like in English!
- Most letters in Spanish are pronounced just like they’re spelled. So, you’ll easily be able to pronounce unfamiliar words.
- Spanish and English share a lot of words with similar spellings, meanings, and pronunciations, so it’s quite easy to figure out what actor, examinación, and elegante mean. But, there are also lots of false friends, too, with very different meanings! (In Spanish, embarazada means “pregnant”—not “embarrassed”!)
- Spanish words often go in a similar order as in English, so the words in Ella come la pizza are ordered in the same way as in “She eats the pizza.” However, to describe the pizza more closely, you’d say la pizza deliciosa (literally, “the pizza delicious”).
- Spanish nouns have grammatical gender, regardless of whether they're for people or objects. For example, la mesa (the table) is feminine but el vestido (the dress) is masculine. This can feel very different from English, but there are lots of tricks to learning gender, like that most nouns ending with -a are feminine and most ending with -o are masculine.
- Verbs in Spanish change their endings for who is doing the action, similar to how in English we say I eat but she eats. Things are more complicated in Spanish (there are three different groups of verbs, 5-6 endings for each tense, and lots of different tenses!), but the good news is that there are many patterns to help you practice them.
- Spanish uses different words for formal and informal conversation. Spanish has different ways of saying "you" and even different verb endings depending on how well you know the person you're talking to. We do this a little in English, too, like how we use somebody’s first name (“Ben”) vs. when we use their last name (“Mr. Smith” or, even more formally, “Dr. Smith”).
- Spanish grammar, pronunciation, and words can be really different region by region! For example, in Puerto Rico, somebody might say guagua to mean “bus” but in Peru it means “baby.” This is one of the most fun aspects of learning Spanish, these cultural differences, but you'll still be able to rely on what you learn to communicate with speakers from all over the Spanish-speaking world!
Ways to practice Spanish
Spanish is a global language that is used widely on the internet, in movies and entertainment, and on social media, so it’s easy to find ways to practice it!
- Learn Spanish with Duolingo. All of our Spanish courses are free, and the lessons focus on communication for beginners as well as more advanced learners (including those who have studied the language before). You'll train your listening, writing, speaking, and reading skills in bite-size lessons that are fun and tailored to your specific needs as a learner. You can also attend a Duolingo Class to practice with other learners and Spanish-speaking hosts from around the world!
- Learn culture and rhythm with Spanish-language music. Music is a great way to practice Spanish, even for brand-new learners! Create a playlist for artists or genres you like. If you're unsure where to start, take a listen to Rosalía, Romeo Santos, Juanes, Fanny Lú, Julieta Venegas, Natalia Lafourcade, and the collaboration between Quevedo and Bizarrap.
- Find Spanish versions of your old favorites. Watching or reading something you know well in another language will help you pick up the language—you can rely on what you already know to fill in the language gaps! For example, turning on subtitles in addition to Spanish audio while re-watching a show you already know and love can be a great way to build your vocabulary and get more comfortable with other aspects of the language, including pronunciation and grammar.
- Get your Spanish language practice in small, accessible doses. Beginners especially might enjoy perusing Spanish-language magazines, comic books, and even social media posts to make reading in a new language easier and less overwhelming than a whole book.
- Learn about the Spanish-speaking world through podcasts. Duolingo offers Spanish podcasts that are specifically designed for intermediate learners! Each episode narrates a fascinating story from around the Spanish-speaking world in easy-to-understand Spanish. You can even listen to the Spanish mini crime series podcast El gran robo argentino (The Great Argentine Heist)! You might also check out the podcasts that Spanish-speakers themselves are subscribing to, like Se regalan dudas and Psicología al desnudo.
- Make studying delicious as well as educational. Look up a recipe (in Spanish) and impress your friends and family with homemade torta de tres leches, some authentic guacamole or salsa verde, or a more adventurous fresh fish ceviche! The next time you're in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—home of Duolingo’s headquarters, of course—stop by Duo’s Taqueria for some Mexico City-style tacos. You can even earn a discount on your order if you participate in a short Spanish language challenge!