7 Reasons Why Every American Should Learn Spanish
Embrace your place in los Estados Unidos!
Do you want to improve your job prospects, increase your chances of finding love and immerse yourself in another culture without leaving your hometown? Look no further than the Spanish language! It’s America’s second most spoken, and most widely taught, non-English language. It’s also the country’s fastest growing language – period. Once dismissed by many native English speakers, the cultural, political and economic relevance of Spanish can no longer be ignored. Here are seven reasons why learning Spanish will enrich your life.
The most practical thing that the growth of Spanish in the United States means for you is jobs, jobs and jobs! Long-held attitudes throughout the United States have rejected bilingualism, insisting that immigrants learn English and that their children be educated only in English. This has resulted in English-only policies being adopted in many states, including California’s Proposition 227. This attitude is proving more and more shortsighted by the day; immigrants have learned English, and their children are often perfectly bilingual, whereas children in monolingual English-speaking families have not learned other languages and thus lack a necessary skill set for our globalized economy.
When faced with the choice of two equally qualified candidates, employers in all fields say they will choose a candidate who can speak another language – especially Spanish – over a monolingual candidate. Spanish has long been a privileged or required skill in several fields, including education, healthcare, social services, customer service, etc. But thanks to global trade agreements, an interconnected global economy and the continued growth of Spanish in the US – both in terms of size and prestige – the benefit of having Spanish on your resume is now relevant in almost every conceivable field. Make the investment in your future!
When the number of native speakers and second language speakers are combined, the United States, with its roughly 50 million Spanish speakers, is the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world, behind only Mexico and ahead of Colombia, Spain and Argentina. Some projections indicate that the US could even surpass Mexico by 2050 and become the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country.
We are a melting pot of immigrants from all over Latin America and, as a result, Spanish-language media and cultural outlets increasingly seek to bridge cultural and dialectical differences, subsuming dozens of nationalities under the origin-neutral identity of “Latino.” The resulting “neutral” Latin American Spanish spoken on stations like Univision and Telemundo is increasingly taking on its own character – and inevitably seeping back into spoken Spanish. The influence of the old country Spain as a reference point for proper Spanish will continue to wane and the United States is situated to replace it as the site for standard (American!) Spanish, which embraces all Spanish-speaking cultures while privileging none.
Practically, this means that the Spanish you learn and are exposed to here will make you the most well-equipped to travel all over the Spanish-speaking world and communicate with native speakers from many different countries and cultures. Become a part of our country’s thriving second language – and help shape its future!
Spanish may find its way into your life, whether you plan on it or not! The increasing size of the Spanish-speaking population across the United States means significantly increased odds of finding a partner or spouse who comes from a family where Spanish is spoken (or even ending up with someone whose own first language is Spanish!). More effectively being able to communicate with your mother-in-law may not be desired in every case, but it’s a more effective way to win over parents who are skeptical about your ability to participate in family life. If you like your partner’s Spanish-speaking family, this will be a way for you to better integrate with them. If you don’t like them, at least you’ll be able to understand what they’re saying about you!
The impending repeal many English-only education laws around the country, combined with a globalized economy that necessitates multilingualism, means dramatically increasing opportunities for bilingual education in the United States. If you are currently a parent or thinking about becoming one, you may be considering bilingual education, after school language classes, or language tutoring for your child. At the very least, your kids will likely have Spanish as a foreign language as part of their regular school curriculum. Learning Spanish alongside your child will be a motivator for both of you. Use his or her designated homework time as an excuse to sit down and work on your own Spanish. You’ll be inspired by the ease with which your child picks up the language, and you will be able to help when it comes to more complex topics, like grammatical structures. For your son or daughter, Spanish will cease to be just another dry subject in school forced upon them by adults, but something living and breathing, something with which they can interact and unleash their natural creativity.
Spanish is classified as one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn due to its grammatical and cultural proximity to English. It is also the most omnipresent language in our society after English, meaning vastly more opportunities to speak it, hear it and read it. If you live in New York, Florida or the Southwest, chances are there’s anywhere from a substantial to a majority Spanish-speaking population nearby. Spanish language television and radio abound. Most services in major cities are available in Spanish, and the second most likely language to be displayed on signage is Spanish. In other words, if you are looking to effectively learn a foreign language, Spanish is the closest you will get to true immersion without leaving home.
Your Spanish doesn’t have to be perfect, or even fluent. If you are able to convey and understand some basic ideas, regardless of your mastery of grammar, you will be able to interact with a much larger portion of the population and integrate yourself deeper into your community. Even gestures go a long way; attempting words and phrases in Spanish with your Latino neighbors – even if they speak perfect English – will generate goodwill and mutual inclusion. You may even find yourself in a position to help someone out by translating or giving directions. At the very least you will elicit a grateful smile from native speakers for your efforts. Speaking Spanish is not just a way to learn more about other cultures, but also about your own culture, your city and your community. Understand your environment better through the eyes of an immigrant and the experience of the Latino community.
Spanish in the USA not only has a booming present and a promising future, but also a rich past. The southwestern states were part of the Spanish empire, and later Mexico, before being annexed by the United States. Spanish was spoken in the southwestern states long before English, as evidenced by its rich Spanish toponymy (place names). Being able to understand their literal meanings offers a whole new insight into the characteristics of the places and their history. California is home to places like Merced (mercy), Fresno (ash tree), Madera (wood), Salinas (salt mines), Ventura (good fortune, happiness), Calabasas (pumpkins), Encinitas (little oaks), Corona (crown), Chula Vista (beautiful view) and the beautiful bilingual redundancy of the La Brea Tar Pits (the tar tar pits). The abundance of Spanish place names extends far and wide and even includes the names of several other US states: Florida means flowery, Nevada means snowy and Montana means mountain, just to name a few!
Spanish in the US is different from any other foreign language for a very simple reason: it’s not foreign at all! It’s an integral part of of North America’s past, present and future, and its influence will only continue to rise dramatically. Embrace America’s second language and enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine!