Discover Languages is a national campaign, introduced by the American Council on the Teaching Foreign Languages "to raise public awareness about the importance of learning languages and understanding cultures in the lives of all Americans" (ACTFL, 2006).
In support of the Discover Languages campaign, the Center of Applied Linguistics presents a regular Web series spotlighting a specific language and encouraging readers to explore languages more deeply.
The spotlight is currently on "SPANISH." The following is a brief excerpt of the article:
"The Spanish language is thought to have evolved from Vulgar Latin (the informal, spoken variety of Latin that is thought to have been the precursor to all modern-day Romance languages) and is closely related to other Romance languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Gordon (2005b) lists the lexical similarities between Spanish and other Romance languages as ranging from approximately 75% to 85%, a level of similarity that makes it possible to understand parts of one language with knowledge of another. Although estimates are imprecise, Spanish is probably one of the top three most spoken languages in the world, with an estimated 322 million speakers (Gordon, 2005a)1. It has official or national language status in at least 20 countries (Gordon, 2005b), the European Union (Europa, 2008), and the United Nations (United Nations, 2008).
Although the language is most often referred to as Spanish (español) by native and second language speakers alike, it is also sometimes referred to as Castilian (castellano), particularly in contrasting it with Spain’s official regional languages, three of which have large numbers of speakers and enjoy prominent public use: Basque (vascuense, euskera); Catalan (bacavès), which is also known as Catalan-Valencian-Balear; and Galician (gallego). Regional languages with smaller numbers of speakers include Aragonese; Aranese, which is also known as Gascon; and Asturian, also known as Asturian-Leonese."
To read more, please visit: http://www.cal.org/resources/discoverlanguages/spanish/index.html