The use of Spanish in the United States is increasing
19.7% of people now speak a foreign language, compared to 17.9% in 2000
WASHINGTON – According to statistics from the American Census Office, the number of American homes where a foreign language is spoken, particularly Spanish has increased by 8 million since 2000.
This increase implies that currently 19.7% of the American population aged 5 years or older speaks a foreign language, compared to 17.9% in 2000.
According to the demography experts who have analysed the figures, this is mainly due to the increase in Latin American immigration which has occurred over the past years.
“The increase is predominantly in the Hispanic speaking world, but Asian languages also form part of this increase in the US”, explains William Frey, demographer from the Brookings Institution, an investigation centre in Washington.
States which traditionally receive Latin American immigrants, such as California, New Mexico and Texas, had the biggest increase.
One in ten Californian homes has been isolated linguistically in the last 6 years, which means that anyone older than 14 years old in California showed difficulties speaking English.
Despite this, these statistics do not completely reflect reality, according to Frey, given that the children of immigrants nearly always speak English and they adopt it as their language for the following generations. “Children grow up learning English”.
“It has been demonstrated that the 2nd and 3rd generations speak very good English and Spanish has become a small part of their language” he added.
The demographer explains that there are American towns which are becoming attractive destinations for immigrants thus drastically increasing the number of Spanish speakers.
The population has increased in non-traditional places such as Delaware, Nevada, Utah and until South Dakota, says Frey. "This is a trend which will continue” he stated.
Hispanics form the main minority in America, with 43 million people out of a population of more than 300 million. Within the Hispanic population, it is estimated that 12 million illegal immigrants (the majority Mexican) live in the country.
Many of these immigrants, mainly those who have arrived in recent years, do not speak English and they have more than one job, working long hours in order to survive in the US and to send money to their families. This makes it difficult to find time to learn the language.
Conservative groups which are trying to slow down immigration view the increasing popularity of Spanish as a threat to the American values and culture and they argue that the “Latinos” do not want to learn English.
Despite this, the number of books, cds and all products aimed at the country’s Hispanic market is increasing.
Furthermore, it is common to find Spanish signposts in airports, government offices and all types of shops.
“Speaking another language is not necessarily a backward step; bilingualism is widely seen as a “boom” for a person or country” said Jeanne Batalova, an expert in immigration from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
In a recent study, the MPI showed that if the American government were to spend 200 million dollars every year on classes for the next 6 years, they would teach English to all the legal immigrants.
And, if they spent another 2,900 million dollars to teach those who do not have papers, it would guarantee the integration of all immigrants into American civic life, said Batalova.
(Source: El MUNDO)
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