About the Spanish language

Throughout the Middle Ages a variety of Spanish dialects were spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. The dialect of Castile, or Castilian Spanish, eventually became the official language in the 13th century.

Although the majority of words in Spanish come from Latin, many come from other sources which reflect Spain's rich and colourful history. These sources include: Greek, Basque, and Celtic from the pre-Latin times; Germanic words from the Visigoths after the fall of the Roman Empire, Arabic from the Muslim occupation after 711, French beginning with the 11th century pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain and continuing to the present day, Italian from the 15th and 16th centuries, American Indian languages from colonial times, to name but a few, and in more recent decades, English.

Each country in Central and Latin America has its own slight variations in pronunciation, vocabulary, and, in some cases, structure, but whether you speak to people from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, or any of the other Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas, you will be able to communicate effectively in Spanish.

Spanish was introduced to Central America by European colonists in the 16th century. The indigenous ancient civilizations, such as the Maya (who were based predominantly in Central America), the Aztecs (who lived mainly in what is now Mexico), and the Inca (based along the west coast of South America), together with the Hispanic traditions of the colonists, have contributed to a rich and varied culture which is reflected in the language spoken today throughout the continent.

Presiding over the Spanish language is the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, which as well as giving guidance on grammar and preferred usage throughout the Spanish-speaking world, supervises the editing of the authoritative Diccionario de la lengua española. With the twenty-third edition now in preparation, it is pre-eminently the dictionary of record of the Spanish language.