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The Spanish Language on the Internet

By now we all know that Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world. In other words, the number of Spanish speakers in the world is considerable: approximately 440 million.

Of those 440, only 136 million have regular access to the Internet. If we consider the fact that about 1.760 million people each day surf the web and do the math, we have to conclude that a paltry 4% of the total number of Internet users is Spanish speaking. Mind you, this is despite the fact that for several consecutive years English has been pushed further aback as the dominant language on the Internet (from once 74% to about 45% today).

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Together with a constant rise in the amount of Internet users, so too is the number of websites steadily accumulating. According to a study published by the Cervantes Institute, the “Telefónica” foundation and the publishing house “Santillana”, titled “El Español, lengua global. La economía”, 50% of all websites written in Spanish were created in Spain. A shared but distant second place is shared by Argentina and Mexico with 9% each, followed by the United States, Colombia, and Chile each responsible for less than 5%.

Can we blame someone for this situation? According to some, these poor percentages are due to a lack of adequate policies in Latin-American countries. As a result, in many of those countries Internet is still a luxury commodity, always expensive and often slow, despite advancing technologies.

What would happen if the situation improved? The Cervantes report speculates on a change for the better.

According to the study “an increase in investments in the establishment of fixed Internet connections in Hispanic countries, so as to reach similar levels as Anglo-Saxon countries have, would multiply the presence of Spanish on the Internet by a factor of 4”. In other words, if they had the same facilities to access the Internet as English speaking countries have, the presence of Spanish on the Internet could come to represent about 16% of World Wide Web surfers and websites.

So the question is whether Spanish speaking countries should do whatever they can to improve their Internet infrastructures? Let’s be honest: there are many and much more pressing problems shouting for a solution than whether or not Spanish is a potent player as far as the Internet is concerned. Perhaps the dream of turning Spanish into a dominant Internet language should be put off a little longer. The report does provide us with a deeper understanding of certain situations in Latin-American countries, but above all it shows us that the growth of Spanish on the web is a long-term process.

Perhaps it is like someone once said: “It doesn’t matter if you achieve your dreams or not, rather what you do while you try to attain them”.

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