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Frequently Asked Questions
Spanish is not only a language, it is the heart of a culture, religion and history, and a communication tool shared by nearly 500 million people in 21 countries. It is not possible to properly understand the Hispanic culture without a knowledge of the Spanish language. And it is not possible to understand the Spanish language without knowing the roots and dreams of a culture that established an institution, Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy), with affiliated bodies in a number of countries to coordinate the use of Spanish as a modern language. Eleven Nobel Prizes for Literature have been granted to Spanish language writers from six Spanish speaking countries since 1904.
Jose Echegaray (Spain) shared the Nobel prize with French writer Frédéric Mistral in 1904. Jacinto Benavente (Spain, 1922), Gabriela Mistral (Chile, 1945), Juan Ramon Jiménez (Spain, 1956), Miguel Angel Asturias (Guatemala, 1967), Pablo Neruda (Chile, 1971), Vicente Alexander (Spain, 1977), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1982), Camilo José Cela (Spain, 1989), Octavio Paz (Mexico, 1990), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru/Spain, 2010) have won this important award.
The Gramática de la lengua castellana, written in Salamanca in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija, was the first grammar written for a modern European language. According to a popular anecdote, when Nebrija presented it to Queen Isabella I, she asked him what was the use of such a work, and he answered that language is the instrument of empire. In his introduction to the grammar, dated August 18, 1492, Nebrija wrote that "... language was always the companion of empire."
From the sixteenth century onwards, the language was taken to America and the Spanish East Indies via Spanish colonization of America. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, is such a well-known reference in the world that Spanish is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes").
In the twentieth century, Spanish was introduced to Equatorial Guinea and the Western Sahara, and to areas of the United States that had not been part of the Spanish Empire, such as Spanish Harlem in New York City, Miami-Dade, Florida, and Los Angeles, California.
The Royal Spanish Academy (Spanish: Real Academia Española, RAE) is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The RAE's emblem is a fiery crucible, and its motto is "Limpia, fija y da esplendor" ("[It] cleans, sets, and casts splendour").
An affiliated academy is based in the United States, where more than 50 million Hispanics/Latinos live. Mexico is the only country in the world with more Spanish-speaking people than the U.S.
The RAE dedicates itself to the linguistic planning by enacting legislation aimed at promoting linguistic unity within and between the various territories, to ensure a common standard in accordance with its founding charter: "To ensure the changes that that it undergoes [...] do not break the essential unity that maintains the entire Hispanic sphere."
The proposed language guidelines are shown in a number of various works. The priorities are the dictionary (DRAE), edited periodically twenty-two times since 1780 until today, and grammar, edited in December of 2009.
The RAE is a major publisher of dictionaries and grammars, and has a formal procedure for admitting words to its publications. Its website includes an online dictionary and other resources, all in Spanish.