Spanish is now the third most widely spoken language in the world after English and Chinese. This book traces how and why Spanish has arrived at this position, examining its role in the diverse societies where it is spoken from Europe to the Americas. Providing a comprehensive survey of language issues in the Spanish-speaking world, the book outlines the historical roots of the emergence of Spanish or Castilian as the dominant language, analyzes the situation of minority language groups, and traces the role of Spanish and its colonial heritage in Latin America. The book is structured in four sections: Spanish as a national language: conflict and hegemony Legislation and the realities of linguistic diversity Language and education The future of Spanish. Throughout the book Clare Mar-Molinero asks probing questions such as: How does language relate to power? What is its link with identity? What is the role of language in nation-building? Who decides how language is taught?