Varieties and dialects of the Spanish language make Spanish the official language of 21 countries. Castilian is the official dialect of Spanish in Spain, and Spain is considered the motherland of Spanish, or where the language originates. Castilian Spanish is characterized by a “lisp” of certain consonants and a more general formality than the Spanish of the Americas. For instance, English words or “Spanglish” words are not as commonly integrated into Castilian, as they tend to be in the Spanish of the Americas.
If territories are included, then there are more than 30 worldwide destinations in which Spanish is widely spoken. In fact, more than 250 million people consider Spanish their first or “native” language, making it the third most widely-spoken language in the world. There are currently more than 280 million people living in countries where Spanish is the official language, thus opening up for you a realm of possibilities to explore the globe, work, teach, volunteer, intern and live abroad in any one of many Spanish-speaking nations, including Spain.
In Spain, you can't always rely on English as a back up to communicate. In Spain, you will use and practice Spanish every day; you will interact with native speakers at every turn. Even a simple task like going to the market becomes a learning experience. You pick-up subtleties, authentic accents and pronunciation, jokes, stories, and local phrases you never would have learned in the United States. Most of the time, you find you are learning new things without even trying; simply being surrounded by Spanish day and night helps you absorb more than you think.
Another advantage of total immersion is that you not only become immersed in the Spanish language, but in Spanish culture as well. Initial language learning opens up more opportunities to explore the literature, music, art, dance, sports, etc… of Spain. Total immersion also makes you more marketable in the job world, even on an international level. After learning Spanish, you have an advantage-an extra edge-above other job candidates. You have broadened your communication skills beyond just the English-speaking world. Your Spanish language abilities are a major asset, and companies know it. Aside from the job world, you may also use your Spanish class credits earned abroad to add a major or minor back at your U.S. home campus.
Each program has its own specific language level requirements. Usually, you can tell how intensive a program's course of study will be based upon its required level of Spanish language proficiency. Language requirements range from no prior language instruction in Spanish, to a highest language level of nearly bilingual. You may want to check and see what prior level of Spanish your program requires, so that you can start or continue learning Spanish in Spain.
*Please note: The principle language of Spain is Spanish, often called Castilian. However, there are opportunities to learn the other official languages of some Spanish provinces; For example, Catalan is widely spoken in Cataluna where Barcelona is located, Galician is spoken in Galicia, and the ancient Basque language is used in the northern Pais Vasco . You may want to check and see if your study abroad program offers language instruction in one of Spain’s other prevalent languages besides Castilian Spanish.