English-Language Learners

Majority of Hispanics Want Young People to Speak Spanish, Survey Shows

By Corey Mitchell — June 10, 2015 1 min read

An overwhelming majority of Hispanics say it is important that future generations of Hispanics living in the United States speak Spanish, according to a Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends report.

The survey, “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity” found that 75 percent of Hispanic adults say it is “very important” that young people speak Spanish while another 20 percent say it is “somewhat important.”

While nearly 90 percent of survey respondents still believe that Hispanic immigrants must learn English to succeed in the U.S., the authors argue that the findings “may reflect a recent shift in priorities,” with Hispanics now more likely to support bilingualism and heritage language retention.

The shift may also be reflected in K-12 trends. In some of the nation’s largest school systems, including New York City and Houston, more resources are being poured into dual-language programs as interest in transitional bilingual programs plateaus.

In dual-language classes, instruction is delivered in two languages, with the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy in both. The transitional programs are designed to help students quickly make the transition from Spanish to English-only instruction.

For children who primarily speak Spanish at home but English in school, maintaining or developing fluency in that heritage language may prove difficult, data trends indicate.

Prior Pew research shows that language use among Hispanics in the U.S. follows the path of previous immigrant groups: English use is dominant by the third generation.

That’s because the level of Spanish proficiency diminishes in later generations. Among third-generation Latinos, fewer than half report being able to speak proficiently or read in Spanish, the survey determined. And they’re much less likely to watch television or listen to music in Spanish.

Relying on respondents’ self-assessments, the Pew Center survey participants were classified as Spanish dominant, English dominant, or bilingual. Roughly 38 percent were Spanish dominant or bilingual while nearly a quarter were English dominant.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.