LatinaLista — The newly released Pew report, English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos, highlights what is an inevitable outcome for any immigrant community whose current growth can be traced to more native births than foreign ones — English is the preferred language of the younger generations.
The Pew report found that over 33 million Latinos speak English proficiently. Of those who don’t, it can be attributed to mainly three factors: age, education and gender:
- 21% of Hispanics who do not speak English are ages 65 and older
- Three-in-four Hispanics who do not speak English have less than a high school education.
- By gender, 57% of those who do not speak English are women
It’s no coincidence that immigrant children adapt more easily to using English than their parents or abuelos. After all, they are more immersed in the language via school. They hear it, they are quizzed on it and if they want to play with others who don’t speak Spanish, they invent their own way to be understood as they master pronunciation and vocabulary of English words.
In fact, the progress of Spanish-speaking children learning English mirrors a trend happening throughout Latin America where countries are making English a priority for their youth, some even requiring that they exhibit a level of proficiency before graduation.
As always, education plays a big role in who speaks English. Education creates more confidence for the person learning English because they will have learned the basics and practiced with an instructor. Though they may speak with an accent or not speak grammatically correct, they will feel less inclined to be embarrassed if they have had no lessons at all.
And the high number of women who don’t speak English can be anecdotally traced back to whether or not they work out of the home or interact with their children’s teachers or English-speakers out in their communities. Too often, migrant women are too embarrassed to speak up, let alone do it in a language they don’t yet completely grasp.
But if the examples of millions of immigrant mothers and grandmothers over time are anything to go by, these women learn enough English from their own children to understand and be understood until they either formally take classes or gain the confidence on their own.
This natural evolution of English usage among Latino immigrants is a healthy sign:
One-in-four Latinos speak only English at home. And when it comes to consuming news media, among Latino adults, a growing share get their news in English, while a declining share do so in Spanish.
Yet, as even this Pew report highlighted, no degree of learning English will replace the pride and importance Latinos of all generations place on their children knowing Spanish.
Even so, for Hispanics overall, 95% say it is important that future generations of Hispanics living in the U.S. be able to speak Spanish
Language is intertwined with the culture and it’s a way not to hold on but to preserve that connection with honored traditions and a proud history.