As national debate continues on whether or not Spanish should become our second national language, common sense tells us that it is certainly worthwhile to become at least somewhat fluent in the second most popular language on the continent. First, take a look at these figures:
● The most recent census (2000) projected that the Hispanic population will grow by 25% in the next 20 years.
● Since 2000, more detailed surveys (by Suro and Passel) have found that the Latino population is growing with such tremendous momentum that a 25% growth projection is just the tip of the iceberg.
● Tourism from Spanish-speaking countries has risen more than 35% in the last three years.
What does this mean for the general U.S. population? Take a look at these two examples of how communities are responding to this increased population of Latinos.
1) Communities in South Texas are implementing bilingual education due to the tremendous surge of the Latino population. They have determined that the home, societal and economic benefits of educating Latino children in their native language will do much to improve their local communities.
As a result, entire generations of Latinos are becoming fully educated within the U.S., but they still are primarily speaking Spanish. These individuals are now fully educated, Spanish-speaking members of our society—and it is to the benefit of all if we can communicate together.
2) Ticonderoga High School, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The percentage of the freshman class enrolled in a foreign language course has increased from 68 percent to 90 percent in only a year. Why? The region has seen increases both in prison construction and in tourism by French-Canadians from Quebec. As a result of these local phenomena, employment opportunities in tourism and corrections have been rapidly increasing. Employers in corrections indicate that Spanish is required for many entry-level jobs and for promotions. Similarly, tourist industry contacts suggest a need for more French-speaking bilingual employees.
After feeling the pressure from employers throughout the region, Ticonderoga High
School responded by encouraging students to enroll in foreign language classes. The economic benefit could be underestimated, and students and teachers understood the importance of becoming bilingual for the benefit of the whole region.
These are not isolated circumstances.
Hospitals, construction firms, landscaping companies, tourist shops, hotels, and every other entity in the service industry is on the lookout for bilingual employees–-and especially those who can speak Spanish. Basic economics reason that where there is a demand, “they will come.” And they are coming! The Latino population makes up a huge part of our market. Employers are keenly aware of this. They are hungry for Spanish-speaking workers. Ask any business owner and they will tell you that they give preference in their hiring to those who can speak Spanish. As for the owners themselves? Business is inherently better for those who can cater to the Spanish-speaking population. Therefore, as national debate continues as to whether or not Spanish should be recognized our next domestic language, it is worth the time spent to learn the Latino language.
J. Romriell, developer of The Language Center, reviews learn-Spanish programs for adults, children, and corporations. You can read her analyses at http://www.thelanguagecenter.net.