With 41 million native speakers and 12 million bilinguals, the United States is already the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, according to a new report (link in Spanish). It is already ahead of Colombia and Spain, and just behind Mexico.
“If we would add the 9.7 million of undocumented immigrants to the total number of Hispanics on the census, the number of potential speakers of Spanish in the United States would rise to about 62 million people,” said Instituto Cervantes, a cultural organization that promotes the Spanish language.
It could soon be far more. If the growth projections for the Latino population stay as they are, the US will be the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world by 2050, the study predicts. Hispanics will reach 132.8 million—and 30% will use Spanish as their mother tongue.
But this isn’t guaranteed. More American Latinos are fluent in English and so the number of people who speak Spanish in their personal life is actually decreasing slightly. For example, the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of people older than five who speak Spanish at home has dropped, from 78% in 2000 to 73% in 2013. Young Latinos increasingly prefer to consume news and entertainment in English, as well.