Language is the key that permits humans to engage in dialogue, share memories and anecdotes of the past and present. It is our guide and most powerful source of communication that links us to our heritage and culture. So why not learn it or enforce it?
Spanish is the most dominant language in the United States after English, driven primarily by the immigration of Latinos. Spanish has become part of the culture of the United States and its people, as they are exposed to it in market places, restaurants, cultural fairs, sports venues, media, work, and college, among others. As a result, it is expected that 40 million people will be Spanish speakers by 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. However as this may seem good news for how well the country has accepted the use of Spanish, it proves to be not so good news for Latinos. The U.S. Census Bureau proves that there will be a decline from 75% to 66% in the amount of Spanish-speaking Latinos in 2020 and an increase in non-Latino Spanish speakers. What has led to this change and why did we not notice it before?
A leading cause to this growing change is Latino parents with children born in the U.S. or children that were brought at an early age do not feel the urgency to teach their children fluent Spanish or Spanish at all. This is caused by the desire to have their children learn fluent English and ease the process of adapting in the U.S. Furthermore the educational system in the U.S., according to Florida International University assistant professor of linguistics Phillip M. Carter, believes schools don’t have proper bilingual immersion programs for immigrant students, turning them into monolingual English speakers. As well in some parts of the country, young American-Latinos are ashamed to know Spanish because of discrimination, as in the case of North Carolina. Despite this situation, the Latino community must stand strong and united to help ourselves and our upcoming generations retain our language and customs.
Currently we live in a world where being multilingual is a part of life and a must to succeed, grow professionally and personally. The Latino culture has such a strong prominence in the United States and one of the best ways to understand your own heritage and culture is not only through the practice of traditions of your native nation but also through the language. Having the opportunity to be fluent in English and Spanish with the fact of being fully exposed to my Colombian and American heritage has been defining. I can say that language has been the key that makes the difference when understanding each of them. Every language is so particular and rooted to the people, the attitude, jokes and history of a country. This embellishes the true experience of growing up multicultural and sharing and feeling the pride of your heritage.
Every nation is beautiful and unique, and in the case of Latinos, we have been blessed with such a diverse set of cultures, traditions and heritage in Latin America. It would be a pity to see so many young American-Latinos grow up and not be able to fully embrace and understand where they and their ancestors came from. Or in some cases even reach a point where they don’t feel or identify as Latinos, and only appear in the outside. It is most definite that more internationals in the U.S. will begin to learn Spanish, as it will become necessary as the language keeps gaining strength and becomes more familiar within countries. However, let’s not permit our Latino history and culture be told through their views, but through our own understanding and interpretation and most importantly our Latino Spanish-speaking voices.
Carl Vosloh is the Editor in Chief of Latin American Affairs for Latino Giant (Washington, DC).