With 329 million native speakers, Spanish ranks as the world’s No. 2 language in terms of how many people speak it as their first language. It is slightly ahead of English (328 million) but far behind Chinese (1.2 billion). Spanish can be classified as a Romance language, a group that includes French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Romanian.

To the people who speak it, Spanish is sometimes called español and sometimes castellano (the Spanish equivalent of “Castilian”). Spanish is one of the world’s most phonetic languages.

If you know how a word is spelled, you can almost always know how it is pronounced (although the reverse isn’t true). The main exception is recent words of foreign origin, which usually retain their original spelling. Today, the foreign language exerting the most influence is English, and Spanish has adopted hundreds of English words related to technology and culture.

The number one reason to learn Spanish is its widespread use around the world. It makes the speaker more competitive in the job market and opens up new opportunities. But beyond that, as Spanish-speaking music and cinema flourish, being able to understand them makes one appreciate Spanish culture more! Finally, once you learn how to speak Spanish, it will help you learn other Romance languages, such as French, Italian, and Portuguese.