Spanish ( or in Spanish) is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile (present northern Spain) into central and southern Iberia during the later Medieval period.
Modern Spanish developed with the readjustment of consonants ( ) that began in 15th century. The language continues to adopt foreign words from a variety of other languages as well as developing new words. Spanish was taken most notably to the Americas as well as to Africa and Asia Pacific with the expansion of the Spanish Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, where it became the most important language for government and trade.
In 1999, there were according to Ethnologue 358 million people speaking Spanish as a native language and a total of 417 million speakers worldwide. Currently these figures are up to 400 and 500 million people respectively. Spanish is the second most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese. Mexico contains the largest population of Spanish speakers. Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and used as an official language of the European Union, and Mercosur.
Due to its increasing presence in the demographics and popular culture of the United States, particularly in the fast-growing states of the Sun Belt, Spanish is widely considered to be the most beneficial second language for a native speaker of American English. The increasing political stability and economies of many larger Hispanophone nations, the language's immense geographic extent in Latin America and Europe for tourism, and the growing popularity of warmer, more affordable, and culturally vibrant retirement destinations found in the Hispanic world have contributed significantly to the growth of learning Spanish as a foreign language across the world.