Or should I say Hola? Because this column is about the Spanish language. There are approximately 405 million people in the world speaking Spanish as a native language, making it the second-most-spoken language by a number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese. Spanish is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
There are 22 countries in the world whose dominant language is Spanish. And in Australia, there are over 100,000 Spanish speakers.
Even if you don’t speak it, Spanish is a familiar language. You are probably one of the majority of people in this country who don’t speak Spanish, but you probably know quite a few Spanish words, thanks to songs, such as Que Sera, films and TV shows that give us expressions such as “Hasta la vista” meaning ‘See you later” or “Vaya con Dios” which is ‘Goodbye’ in Spaghetti Westerns (it literally means ‘Go with God’).
The list of words in English that we have borrowed from Spanish is endless, words like mañana (tomorrow) (pronounced manyana) – there’s even a Manyana Beach on the South Coast of New South Wales. Thanks to the popularity of Spanish cuisine, we know all about paella, avocado, tapas, enchilada and sangria. Then there are lifestyle words, like rumba, poncho, rodeo, hacienda, sombrero, fiesta, armada, pronto and macho. My favourite is siesta, a wonderful tradition that I envy. It means ‘the sixth hour’ – referring to the nap you need after being awake for six hours.
One of our most loved Australian traditions has a name that comes from Spanish – barbecue. The Spanish word bonanza, which we use in English to mean a lucky find, in Spanish also means ‘calm seas’ or ‘fair weather’. The word spaniel (which came from hispania, the same root that gave us the words ‘Spain’). Stampede, guerrilla lasso, mosquito and alpaca. Comrade comes from camarada, ‘roommate’) and alligator from el lagarto ‘the lizard’. Our cabana, which we use to mean a beach shelter comes from the Spanish cabana ‘hut’, the same source as that of cabinet.
Adios y buena suerte! (goodbye and good luck!)