chove wrote:Is the appeal of Spanish the tourist industry? Europeans go there on holiday a fair bit, or at least they did when I was small.
Partially. But I'd say the PR and cultural export has even more to do with that. The Spanish speaking countries have been the only bloc at least trying to rival English in the euroamerican world. A few Spanish songs every summer, latin american dance classes in any city, a few Nobel prizes for literature, slowly crawling even into Hollywood over many obstacles. This hammers the "Spanish is a cool language" idea into people quite well. Also, I'd say the Spanish speaking minority within the US becoming more brave and vocal, and the US actually accepting Spanish as the main foreign language to learn (even though I have so many doubts, whenever someone say "language X is awesome for salaries"
), that's one of the important factors even in Europe and possibly to some extent elsewhere (I'd be excited to hear from people from other places).
(And yes, Spanish can be a good investment financially, and you don't have to be in the tourism industry for that, but most people aren't approaching it this way. Even those saying "Spanish will help me earn more" often don't really seem to have any idea what to do with the skill.)
The holidays are important, but it is not the only deciding factor in the "Spanish is enjoyable" wave. I'd say a non negligeable part are also the tons of learning resources, and also the absence of snobism, that many teachers spoil for example French with.
The Spanish language managed to get into a positive reinforcement loop. And I am sure the countries will profit from this soft power. It is truly exceptional.
I am not sure I'd consider the economy to be the important factor, I'd think it's more about the number of speakers. In this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_l ... e_speakers
German is 16, Polish is 33, and Czech is 87th. Meaning I can speak to many more people in German than in these other languages (although German wasn't so much a decision for me since I'm half German). But that's how I selected to study Spanish rather than French when I was 12; well, actually I think I looked at a map and saw the huge spanish-speaking regions and the small french regions.
This is for ordinary people, not hardcore polyglots, so there's also a mental ranking by how attainable they seem to be. I've started on Chinese at least three times, but I soon realize it's just not practical.
This certainly affects people (and often adults), who are far away both from Germany and China (in the everyday life, the distance of 700km and 7000 km is actually not that different). But it doesn't explain, why people relatively close to both Germany and Poland do almost never choose Polish. And why Germans near the borders, even those going often to the Czech Republic, almost never learn Czech. It has no prestige, because they perceive Czechs as poor.
If the numbers mattered that much, Polish would be a much more popular language in Europe. Italian too. Both countries are among the bigger ones in terms of population. And both are the origin of many expats/immigrants all over the continent. But they are still relatively neglected, because their speakers are perceived as not that rich (even the Italians. I was actually very surprised, when I met various second or third generation Italian immigrants, who clearly had a lot of experience with prejudices and/or discrimination. Some time ago, they really were in a similar position as the Poles now).