Traditional dress in Mexico.
Traditional dress in Mexico.

At the time of publication, Spanish is the world's second-most popular language, just behind Chinese and ahead of English. Twenty-four countries are Spanish-speaking, including Mexico -- with the most native Spanish speakers -- around 112 million. In the United States, more than 35 million people speak Spanish as their first language. So you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your pronunciation when you say the word that means the language of Spain: espanol, pronounced ess-pah-nyohl. When referring to a dialect spoken in Spain or to medieval Spanish, the word castellano may also be used to mean language. Castellano, or Castilian, is pronounced kah-stel-yah-noh, accent on the "yah."

Diversos Significados

When Spanish is used as an adjective, the gender of the word matches the noun it modifies; for example: la tortilla espanola is a Spanish omelet. As a plural noun, espanol is masculine -- los espanoles -- and means "the Spanish people." And, when speaking about "the language" of Spanish, the casual vernacular might be any of several choices: el idioma, el lenguaje, el habla, or la lengua.