About the project


In the Fall of 2018, University of Michigan Professor Ryan Szpiech traveled to Spain to uncover and document first-hand the historical events that led to development of the Spanish language. With him was UM Director/Cinematographer Rob DeMilner and 360º photographer/assistant cinematographer Tom Bray. They joined forces with a Seville-based production company, Intermedia Productions, filming pivotal locations in Madrid, Toledo, El Escorial, and Seville and gaining access to key monuments, palaces, cathedrals, and documents not usually accessible to the public. 

The result is The Birth of Spanish in 3D, a short film (approx. 25 minutes) about the history of the Castilian language, the dialect of Latin that would eventually develop into modern-day Spanish.

The film documents a journey of discovery that examines the life of one of Spain’s greatest writers and kings, Alfonso X, the Wise (1252–1284).

Born in Toledo, Alfonso X translated great books from Islamic civilization into Castilian, transforming what was then a small dialect into a language of science, history, and government. His actions were directly responsible for the expansion of Castilian, which would eventually become one of the most spoken languages in the world (today spoken by over 500 million people).

The Birth of Spanish in 3D is an insightful, on-the-ground look at the peoples and cultures of the Iberian Peninsula, which was a unique point of encounter and intellectual transfer between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The project was funded by a grant from the Center for Instructional Support Services at the University of Michigan. It is designed specifically for the classroom and will be of interest to students of Mediterranean history, language, and religion. The website offers resources for teachers and students to delve deeper into the history of the Castilian language, including discussion questions, learning activities, and reading lists for further research.

It also features a number of learning modules centered around the monuments that appear in the film, including 360º images that allow students to explore the locations on their own.

COME WITH US TO EXPLORE THE STREETS AND MONUMENTS OF SPAIN AND EXPERIENCE THE HISTORY OF SPANISH IN 3D!