A brand-new book, Reading the Spanish-speaking World, co-authored by linguistics expert at the University of Bath, Dr Irene Macias and Professor Christopher Pountain, offers a new perspective on learning Spanish by focusing on examples of where the language is spoken beyond mainland Spain.

Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide, with over 500 million native speakers according to latest estimates. The majority of these are in the American continent, including the United States, as well as in Equatorial Guinea in Africa. In 21 countries around the world, Spanish is the official language.

In many of these areas, the Spanish spoken has evolved considerably with local differences in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Despite this, most language learning – in particular, the Spanish taught within Europe – still centres heavily on Castilian Spanish.

To counter this dominance, Reading the Spanish-Speaking World (El mundo hispanohablante en textos) is a content-based textbook written in Spanish, which aims to develop command of the Spanish language and critical thinking skills through a series of texts originating from different Spanish-speaking countries.

Chapters focus on Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Paraguay, Mexico, Puerto Rico as well as the US. These include texts by contemporary, local authors and cover a range of political and cultural themes of up-to-date interest in whichever Spanish-speaking setting.

Dr Macias hopes the new book will help expose learners to the rich variety of Spanish language from around the world, as well as exploring how language is influenced by politics and culture. The textbook is attracting attention for the work it is doing to help breakdown some of the deep-rooted colonial ties associated with language learning.

Commenting, Dr Macias from the University's Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies explained: “Reading the Spanish-speaking World takes a truly pluri-centric approach to Spanish as a foreign or second language. It brings the question “which Spanish to teach?” to the centre of the debate, and responds by giving space to as many linguistic varieties and cultural realities as possible in an educational text of this type.

“Each chapter is centred around a country where Spanish is spoken, including the US where, despite Spanish not being an official language, it is often the de facto second one. The linguistic and research activities that we have designed for each chapter expose students to the linguistic and cultural mosaic that is the Spanish-speaking world.

“This volume shows that language learning is inextricably linked to culture and politics, and that Modern Languages as an academic discipline is so much richer for it.”

  • El mundo hispanohablante en textos / Reading the Spanish-Speaking World (1st Edition) 2023 is published by Routledge. Read more about it.