Latinos: ‘Our’ language is English

8602375300?profile=originalTime magazine’s March 5 edition is barrier-breaking, according to Richard Stengel, the managing editor. “For the first time in our history, we have a Spanish sentence as our cover line: Yo decido. I decide.”


Applause and gratitude to Stengel and his staff of distinguished journalists for choosing to feature the increasing clout of Latino voters, but I wish they had made history differently.

Yes, speaking to someone in their native tongue can be a sign of affection and respect. But here’s the problem: Speaking to Latinos in a language other than English promotes the myth that Hispanics don’t, can’t or won’t speak it.

Worse, it ignores the reality that though there are varying degrees of bilingualism in the community, Latinos will ultimately be no different than any other wave of immigrants who came to this country and eventually made English their family’s primary language.

And even worse than that, it fires up the people who look at such a cover and see concrete evidence that their beloved country is on its way to being drenched by a so-called demographic tsunami that will leave anyone who doesn’t speak Spanish behind.

Nothing could be further from the truth — for most Hispanics in the U.S., English is “our” language.

Last month, the Pew Hispanic Center released its most recent statistical portrait of Hispanics in the U.S., using updated 2010 Census figures. The data show that 25 percent of the Hispanic population ages 5 and up, including both the native and foreign born, speaks only English at home — up from 22 percent in 2005. Another 40 percent say they speak English “very well” and the trends point upward. Plus, even the 35 percent who speak English “less than very well” aren’t all Spanish-only speakers. READ MORE

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