LatinaLista — If anything controversial erupted from last night’s debate, it had to do with the issue of language.
From the language the debate was conducted in to one of the questions regarding making Spanish the second national language of the country, it is definitely an issue that hits a nerve with people.
But should it?
The following is a column written for Matt.org and explains why the issue of language is really a non-issue.
Opinion: The Future of U.S. Spanish Media
Â¿Hablas espaÃ±ol? (Do you speak Spanish?) was the premise for a cross-country tour this summer by two British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Spanish-speaking reporters. Their mission was to gauge the current impact of Spanish in this country. They accomplished this by seeing if they could travel from east to west coast without speaking English.
Following a pre-selected southern route that took them from St. Augustine, Florida through Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio and through two Arizona border towns, Nogales and Yuma, on their way to their final destination of Los Angeles, it wasn’t hard to predict that the two could find someone who spoke Spanish in all of those places.
Though the pair admitted on their daily blog that while they were able to cross the country speaking only Spanish, they couldn’t conclude that this was an absolute and firm testament to the growing influence of Spanish in the country.
For that reason more cross-country tours are planned by the BBC in the upcoming months.
On the surface, this trek seems like an honest effort at investigative journalism — until, we learn that the BBC’s Spanish division is in the process of developing content targeting U.S. Hispanics.
It seems even the Brits want to get in on what is perceived to be the cash cow in current U.S. media these days — Spanish-language content.
There is nothing wrong with that but a comment by a BBC executive should give all U.S. Latinos reason to pause.
Carlos Villalobos, business development manager of the Americas and Europe region of BBC World Service said, “Having a conversation about what the dominant language in this country will be in the future is an important topic for us as a content provider.”
While it’s true that U.S. Spanish-language media is going strong and total advertising spending reached $5.59 billion in 2006, increasing 14.4 percent over 2005, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, the dominant language in the United States will always be English.
There are several factors that play into the current success of Spanish-language media — however, none of them are expected to have a long shelf life that would ensure Spanish content will remain the media darling of the future.
First, study after study on generational maintenance of a language other than English in the United States shows that English becomes the language of choice beginning among the third generation.
In a 2006 study examining Southern California Hispanics, researchers found that “Even in the nation’s largest Spanish-speaking enclave, within a border region that historically belonged to Mexico, Spanish appears to be well on the way to a natural death by the third generation of U.S. residence.”
Second, current Spanish media is feeding a population that sits on the cusp of assimilation. The nation’s volatile anti-immigrant climate makes immigrants all the more cognizant of the importance of speaking/reading English to prove their sincerity, to the government and the American public, that they do want to become U.S. citizens.
Will they forego Spanish media altogether? Probably not, but the memories of the blatant discrimination and criticism leveled at them for not speaking more English have been planted. These memories will carry over to subsequent generations impacting the children and grandchildren to the point where they may be satisfied to know just enough Spanish to keep it verbally alive as a linguistic legacy, but not enough to write or read it with authority.
Third, it’s a given that any future national immigration policy adopted by Congress will recognize that not all immigrants coming to this country have expectations for long-term stays. Illegal immigration was manageable in the past because people could flow easily over the border at will. When that was taken away, immigrants had no choice but to stay and create new communities.
Implementing some kind of worker program will ease that phenomenon, and in the process, impact the growth of Spanish-language media.
Last, English is the universal language when it comes to academia, business, and technology.
In the United States, when public opinion is to be swayed or Congress contacted, it is English that carries the message. Perfecting English is being seen more and more as the ticket for upward mobility by a demographic relegated to the lowest rungs of the ladder of economic success.
The future of U.S. Hispanic media doesn’t lie with the language the content is in, but the content itself. Simply translating something into Spanish will be less relevant to a future Hispanic audience with minimal Spanish-speaking abilities.
However, content created targeting English-speaking Latinos, who will be among the largest “minority” in the nation’s future, would seem to be an easier business route than a cross-country tour.