Spanish is ranked among the top five widely spoken languages in the world. It belongs to the Romance group of languages and has its origins in the Castile region of Spain and is thus, at times, referred to as castellano or Castilian. In some regions it is also termed español. Worldwide, there are estimated to be more than 450 million native speakers of the language. The numbers go up to more than 550 million if speakers who speak it as a second language are counted as well.
Spanish is the national language of Spain. It is also widely spoken in South America and has marginally fewer speakers there than Portuguese, the popular language in the region. It is the official language of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, Cuba Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Uruguay. Equatorial Guinea, and the Philippines. There are significant numbers of Spanish-speaking people in the United States as well where the language is influenced by native American languages. The Spanish spoken in various areas varies dialectically, depending on the region. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
In the 16th century, the Spanish empire colonised parts of Americas, Africa, Philippines, and Oceania. As a result, the language spread to these areas and is still spoken there as a first language. Latin has been the biggest influence on the Spanish language. Over time, many words from other languages such as Arabic, French and Italian too have been absorbed in the language giving birth to its current form. Lately, some English words too have become a part of the language.
Spanish is written in the Latin script and its alphabet, called the abecedario, consists of 27 letters and 2 digraphs. It is quite phonemic in nature and thus easy to spell, relatively speaking. If one is aware of the right way of pronouncing a Spanish word, it can be spelt correctly. Of course this is not applicable to the foreign words that have been imbibed by the language later. What is unique about Spanish is the use of the inverted exclamation and question mark (¡ and ¿) and ñ. The latter has been adopted by some other languages too now. These changes were brought about by Real Academia Española that sets the rules for Spanish grammar usage and brings out dictionaries.