Spanish is now the third most widely spoken language in the world after English and Chinese. This new 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 rooots 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. 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? This unique study is invaluable for anyone with an interest in Spain and the Spanish language.