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Is There Really a Debate as to Which Will be the Dominant Language in the Country?

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 and explains why the issue of language is really a non-issue.

Opinion: The Future of U.S. Spanish Media
¿Hablas español? (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.”
Dominant language?
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.

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  • Daniel Maldonado
    September 11, 2007 at 12:27 am

    English speaking European descents will be the largest minority in the U.S. in the future.

  • Frank
    September 11, 2007 at 8:29 am

    IMO, this is somewhat of a propaganda piece. With the continued influx of Hispanics into our country, particularly thru illegal immigration, I am not at all confident that we won’t become a bi-lingual country. How does one explain the question posed by Hispanics at the Univision presidential debates of making Spanish our national language right along with English then? They gave themselves away right there by posing that question.
    The Hispanic immigrants of today are nothing like the European immigrants who first came here. They are colonizing rather than assimilating. I read that it is a cultural thing with Hispanics to retain one’s native language as their primary language of usage. So that will be the determining factor rather than an immersion into a Non-Hispanic, English speaking society.

  • Mister T
    September 11, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Colonizing rather than assimilating? That isn’t even the focus of the article.
    And, Frank, you sound paranoid if you ask me. No one questions why the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish, Mennonites, etc.) have maintained their separate culture and language.
    Frankly, the determining factor will be whether or not José López can make SAT scores high enough to get into college.

  • soyinkafan
    September 11, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    We should be so lucky to have the Spanish language ubiquitous in the USA.
    Europeans consider Americans rubes for many reasons, not the least of which is our overall failure to learn other languages. If Americans valued our border neighbors more, we’d learn both French and Spanish in school. My kids are learning Spanish in their elementary schools, but that’s only because it’s an IB school, and we live in La Quinta, CA.
    English will dominate for all the reasons you stated. But smart people will learn Spanish to get an edge in business in those areas where Spanish is spoken. My father urged me to study Spanish in high school for its business advantages. Wish I spoke it as well now as I did then.

  • yave begnet
    September 11, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I read that it is a cultural thing with Hispanics to retain one’s native language as their primary language of usage.
    Care to cite your source?
    Mexico is colonizing the U.S.? You keep using that word–“colonize”–I do not think it means what you think it means …

  • Frank
    September 12, 2007 at 7:56 am

    The Amish are a small segregated group confined to a small area. They aren’t all over our country in every city and we aren’t printing everything for them in their langauge and pandering to them. Why is it that when one reads an employment add today that prospective employees have to be bi-lingual to get a job in this country? We are an English speaking country, it is our national language and one has to speak Spanish to get a job in their own country? It wasn’t like that before the ILLEGAL invasion.
    If one wants to learn another language by choice that is one thing but having to learn Spanish because we have millions of illegal Spanish speakers in our country now is unacceptable. The claims are that legal Hispanics learn English and assimilate quickly so why do I need to learn Spanish then…. for the illegal ones?
    If you don’t know what colonizing is, then look it up in the dictionary. That is what these illegals are doing along with many of their enablers. Entire cities have been taken over by them and are even becoming sanctuary cities.
    If the Native Americans hadn’t given in and learned the language of their Spanish conquerors, they would have retained their native languages too. I don’t want history repeating itself. U.S.A. = English. Latin America = Spanish. We have our own identities as nations.

  • Horace
    September 12, 2007 at 10:00 am

    One in four Hispanics are illegal aliens with little command of the English languange and most are barely literate in their own. We know from experience that these people will have little opportunity to opportunities to improve themselves as they will have little leisure time to devote to furtherence of their education or developing marketable work skills. Farmworkers, particularly, are not known for their upward mobility. If we remove these 10 million or so illegal aliens there will be little need to put signs up in Spanish.
    The Amish are 100 percent literate and have excellent command of English as well as German. While their cultures are different from most of us, they have no poverty and thus will never accept charity from our national treasury, unlike Hispanic poor, who, like their brethren in Mexico, keep their women barefoot and pregnant. A high percentage of Hispanic illegal aliens who have birthright citizens are eligible for welfare. Demographics show that half of these children who live in Los Angeles will undoubtedly be high school drops. There is little reason to believe that Hispanic ghettos in other cities fair much better. High school dropouts are hardly the type of people who fit in with our need for a literate society that would make this country competitive on the world market. In comparison to most chilren of illegal aliens, the majority of legal resident aliens are literate and screened by our State Department for their potential to become dependent on the public welfare.
    To sum up, Spanish speaking illegal aliens will undoubtedly become burdens on our society in the long term. As economic recessions occur in our country, the poor suffer most, as they are first to become unemployed. We may be on the verge of a recession at this time, so we may very well see this occur within the next few monthts. Our nation should continue its policy of excluding the ill educated and those who lack skills. Anyone who disagrees with this it willing to roll the dice in a losing bet that will have devistating consequences to this nation. Frankly, I care for our citizens more than I care for foreigners. That’s called loyalty to one’s country.

  • yave begnet
    September 12, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Don’t you trolls have something better to do with your time?

  • Frank
    September 13, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Don’t you traitors to this country have anything better to do? Typical illegal symph, no valid arguments so you resort to personal attacks.

  • Carlos Villalobos
    September 14, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    We, at the BBC, cannot predict the future but are convinced that Spanish is and will continue to play a key and increasingly influential role in the USA. This is an undeniable fsct. I agree with the author that it will not replace the English language as the dominant lingua but…. be aware and prepared! Best, Carlos Villalobos. BBC Biz Dev Manager

  • Carlos Villalobos
    September 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    By the way, I forgot to mention that the second stage of Hablas Espanol is already in preparation… this time crossing the country from Seattle to New York…. just speaking Spanish and by road.

  • Sudy
    September 15, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Thank you for this. I am mulling over your points and the comments. That’s very interesting that research indicates the death of the Spanish language by th 3rd generation.
    As a Filipina-Spanish daughter of immigrants, language has always been a very touchy subject. So many children of immigrants that I know desperately wanted to be at least bi-lingual to retain our culture and connect with our heritage. Knowing language, particularly Tagalog or Spanish, is sometimes used to distinguish how “authentic” children of immigrants really are.
    Thank you, again, for this.

  • Frank
    September 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Nothing wrong with legal immigrants retaining their native language at home right along with learning English. As long as they use English as their primary language of usage especially out in mainstream U.S.A. But where I object is when these “immigrants” are actually illegal aliens and we cater to them in their native language which today are mostly Spanish speakers by providing everything to them in their native language and demanding that native English speakers know Spanish to get a job in their own country. I could go on but this is just the tip of the iceburg. This is not Mexico, this is the U.S. and our native language is English. Show some respect!

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