By: Eduardo Pizarro Leon gómez, Ambassador of Colombia
“To learn the best Spanish in the world, the answer is Colombia!”
The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) is celebrating its 300th year anniversary. It was founded by the Marquis de Villena and Duke of Escalona, Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco, on 13th February 1713. Its primary function, over the last three centuries, has been to achieve linguistic identity and establish common grammatical rules for those who speak the language of Cervantes and García Márquez: approximately 528 million people worldwide.
As we are reminded by the current Director of the Cervantes Institute, Víctor García de la Concha, the greatest risk of linguistic rupture occurred in the nineteenth century, after the independence of Latin American countries. However, the idea of splintering American Spanish and Spanish of Spain, was unsuccessful due to the RAE, which stimulated the creation of their own language academies in the whole region. The first of them was the Colombian Academy of Language, which was established in 1871 and spread like wild fire throughout all Hispanic nations, including the Philippines, whose Academy was founded in 1924. At present we have 22 associations, including the most recent addition, the American Academy of the Spanish Language which was founded in 1973, after the expansion of the Hispanic population in the United States.
Spanish is now the world’s second language -following Mandarin Chinese- if we consider the number of those who are native speakers: 420 million people. This figure rises to 528 million people if we add those who have learned it as a second or foreign language. From this new perspective it is the third language in the world after Mandarin and English. Spanish is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
To stimulate learning Spanish, the government of Colombia recently presented the portal www.spanishincolombia.gov.co through which it seeks to turn the country into a major destination for foreigners who want to learn this beautiful and influential language.
The International System of Certification of Spanish as a Foreign Language (Sicele) recognizes 77 institutions in Latin America and Spain with regular courses; 34 of which are in Spain, while the remaining 43 are located in Latin America, 20 of them in Colombia, a country that enjoys enormous prestige thanks to the quality of its Spanish. This reputation has become the motto of the national government to encourage learning Spanish in our country: “To learn the best Spanish in the World, the answer is Colombia!”.