I just found a really interesting article recounting the experiences of two BBC correspondents who spent two weeks traveling the length of the USA speaking only Spanish. The aim of the project was to see what kind of experiences, stories and adventures they would encounter and to get a sense of just how prominent Spanish is in this country, even with all this talk of “English Only.”
To my delight they found Spanish speakers all along, although of course some were more fluent than others. Among the statistics they provide, 15% of people who label themselves “Hispanic” are monolingual English speakers; 25% of are monolingual Spanish speakers; the remaining, and largest portion were bilingual.
Still stereotypes abound. Along their journey they found a man with distinctly Latino name, who spoke no Spanish, and another who after 6 generations in this country, and a college degree is still ostracized and assumed to be an uneducated immigrant.
Just to put things in perspective for all those crying “English Only”; Spanish is the second most common language in the USA after English. The USA has the 5th largest Spanish speaking population in the world; Spanish is the most common language taken in schools as a second language; and besides, this country doesn’t have an official language.
I say whether Spanish is spoken by immigrants or those born and raised here, it benefits us all to know more than one language, and clearly we are going to need it as the Spanish speaking population continues to grow here, and this world continues to come closer together.