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Latinos in the U.S. Speak More English than Spanish

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-According to a new finding released last week by the Pew Research Center a declining share of Latinos in the U.S. are speaking Spanish and a growing number speak only English at home. This serves to confirm that Latinos whether born in the United States or not are easily assimilating into American culture and traditions. 

 

English proficiency among U.S. Latinos has risen over the past 14 years, an increase almost entirely due to the growing share of younger Hispanics born in the U.S., according to the study. 

When the Pew Research Center asked Latinos about their language use and English proficiency in 2014, some 88% of Latinos ages 5 to 17 said they either speak only English at home or speak English “very well,” up from 73% who said the same in 2000. 

And among Latinos ages 18 to 33, the share who speak only English at home or say they speak English “very well” increased from 59% to 76% during this time. 

Increasing English use by young Hispanics has been driven in large part by demographics. More Hispanics in the U.S. today were born in the country than arrived as immigrants -- the number of newly arrived immigrants from Latin America has been in decline for a decade. The study found that 65% of Latinos in 2014 were U.S. born, compared with 60% in 2000. One consequence of this trend is that a greater share of young Hispanics ages 5 to 17 are growing up in households where only English is spoken – 37% in 2014 compared with 30% in 2000.  

The study also found that even as more Latinos speak English proficiently than in the past, many also speak Spanish. The Pew Research Center analysis shows that 36.7 million Latinos speak Spanish at home, making Spanish the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. Looked at another way, three-in-four (73%) Latinos say they speak Spanish at home. 

What I found interesting in this study is the fact that despite the rise of English among U.S. Latinos, nearly all say they value the ability to speak Spanish, with 95% saying it is important to them that future generations of U.S. Latinos speak the language. Still, the research found that as English use rises, most Latinos say Spanish doesn’t define their identity: 71% say speaking Spanish is not necessary to be considered Latino. 

But just because a percentage of Latinos speak Spanish at home or at any other place doesn’t make them less American. On the contrary, I believe that Americans who speak other languages well besides English are, in my view, utterly American! 

Los Angeles and New York City are great American cities in part because many of their inhabitants speak other languages in addition to English. Those who don’t speak English should take the time to learn the language of our land as it would make them great Americans and better prepared for our age of globalization. 

You can see a statistical portrait of the nation’s Hispanic population here that documents key demographic and economic trends from 1980 to 2014.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.