Blog Post

Is Spanish Becoming the New Normal?

Language landscape presents opportunities
May 23, 2014

Slate magazine just publish an article and maps about the most commonly spoken languages other than English in the U.S., based on the Census data.
The first map’s caption reads, “not too interesting” (presumably because it has Spanish on all but seven states). However, it is, to me, more than interesting.  It is quite visually impactful to see that the language is ubiquitous, particularly in northern and southern states where I’m sure not too many people would identify Spanish as the most popular second language.
Second Language Map
(To be fair to the South, I recently learned that SE2’s only Kentucky Colonel and newly named Principal, Jill Hamilton, was already learning Spanish in elementary school in Kentucky – and she was muy buena at it.)
But back to the map. The action of removing Spanish from the map, to make it more interesting about the other languages, tells me Spanish is becoming a new normal and widely accepted as the second language of choice.
That just makes sense when you consider the current and projected numbers of Latinos in the U.S.  Currently, there are about 52.5 million Hispanics in the country. By 2060, the Hispanic population will nearly double, from a current 16 percent of the total U.S. population (in Colorado we are about 21 percent of the population, or about 1.1 million people) to 31 percent. Over that same period, according to a recent Pew Research study, it is projected that the white population will become a minority, representing 43 percent of the total inhabitants of the U.S. (On my next blog post, I’ll touch on the new findings about more Latinos choosing white as their race in census forms.)
Aside from political views, Spanish is already part of the reality in many parts of the country – but not in a taking-over-the-world kind of way. As I have mentioned before, bilingualism will continue to grow too. We’ll have more people (and not just Hispanics) speaking Spanish, but also more Latinos speaking English and Spanish.
The important thing is to be ready to face this new reality: ready not only to serve Hispanics and benefit from this emerging business opportunity, but also be able to send your message, loud and clear.
The key is to know how to communicate effectively with Latinos – whether it’s in English, Spanish or in a combination of the two.
Maybe you were not as surprised as I was to learn that German is the third most spoken language in Colorado. What other reactions do you have when you see the maps?  Let me know on Twitter at @abraham1morales

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