In European countries other than Spain, it may be spoken by some of their Spanish-speaking immigrant communities, primarily in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom where there is a strong community in London. There has been a sharp increase in the popularity of Spanish in the UK over the last few years. It is an important and widely-spoken language in Andorra. It is spoken by much of the population of the British colony of Gibraltar, though English remains the only official language.
In Europe, Spanish is the fifth most commonly used language. In the EU, Spanish is the most widely known language besides the mother tongue after English, German and French. 69% indicate their level of English to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’, and 65% of those speaking Spanish respectively. Respondents speaking French or German tend to rate their language skills slightly lower.1
Proficiency of Spanish in European countries
Among the countries and territories in Oceania, Spanish is the sixth most spoken language after English in Australia, where in the 2001 Australian Census, of the persons who reported they spoke a language other than English at home, around 79,000 reported Spanish.3 According to the 2006 Australian Census there are approximately 58,271 Australians of Spanish full or partial descent, most of which reside within the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, with lesser but rapidly growing numbers in Brisbane (which has over 15,000) and Perth. Of these 12,276 were born in Spain.4
Spanish is also spoken by the approximately 3,000 inhabitants of Easter Island, a territorial possession of Chile. The island nations of Guam, Palau, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia all once had Spanish speakers, but Spanish has long since been forgotten, and now only exists as an influence on the local native languages.
Among other Asian countries Spanish may also be spoken by pockets of ex-immigrant communities, such as Mexican-born ethnic Chinese deported to China or third and fourth generation ethnic Japanese Peruvians returning to their ancestral homeland of Japan. In the Philippines most native languages are part of the Philippine branch of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which is itself a branch of the Austronesian language family. The only non-Austronesian language indigenous to the Philippines is Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole which developed in the southern Philippines. The number of Chavacano-speakers was estimated at 1.2 million in 1996.5
Spanish was an official language of the Philippines from the beginning of Spanish rule in 1565 to a constitutional change in 1973. During Spanish colonization (1565-1898), it was the language of government, trade and education, and spoken as a first language by Spaniards and educated Filipinos. In the mid-nineteenth century, the colonial government set up a free public education system with Spanish as the medium of instruction. This increased use of Spanish throughout the islands led to the formation of a class of Spanish-speaking intellectuals called the Ilustrados. However, Spanish was never spoken by the majority of the population.
Despite American administration after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898, the usage of Spanish continued in Philippine literature and press during the early years of American rule. Gradually, however, the American government began increasingly promoting the use of English, and it characterized Spanish as a negative influence of the past. Eventually, by the 1920s, English became the primary language of administration and education. But despite a significant decrease in influence and speakers, Spanish remained an official language of the Philippines when it became independent in 1946, alongside English and Filipino, a standardized version of Tagalog.
Spanish was removed from official status in 1973 under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, but regained its status as an official language two months later under Presidential Decree No. 155, dated 15 March 1973. It remained an official language until 1987, with the ratification of the present constitution, in which it was re-designated as a voluntary and optional auxiliary language.6
In the Antarctic, the permanent bases made by Argentina, Chile, Peru and Spain also place Spanish as the official and working language of these enclaves.