The Future of Spanish in the United States

Many scholars and researchers agree that the Spanish language’s future in the United States looks promising, though it seems highly unlikely that Spanish will unseat English as the nation’s dominant language. There are those, however, who argue that Spanish faces the possibility of diminishing influence in the United States over time, the result of a language shift seen previously in other immigrant groups.

A study commissioned by Hispanic USA, a market resource firm targeted at Latinos, estimates that by the year 2025, the tally of Spanish-speaking Latinos in the U.S. will climb to some 40 million. The study challenges the notion that the use of Spanish will decline as future generations of Latinos are born and raised in this country in the coming years. The authors of the Hispanic USA study claim that, unlike other immigrant groups, those born in the U.S. to Latino parents will continue to speak Spanish in exceptionally large numbers.

In separate but related analysis, Linguist Steve Schaufele notes: “Given the current health of the U.S. Hispanic community and the level of its emotional investment in its distinctive culture, I would say that American Spanish as one of the principal vehicles of that culture has an excellent chance of surviving indefinitely.”

In addition, the pool of new Spanish-speaking immigrants favors the continued importance of the language in the United States. Over half of the legal immigrants who arrive annually hail from Spanish-speaking countries, and the percentage is even higher for undocumented immigrants.

With the emergence of the Internet as a tool for international communication, the increasing growth and importance of the global economy, and the sheer number of Spanish speakers worldwide, there are more chances to use the language in the United States and greater economic incentives to retain and promote the use of Spanish.

However, some are not as optimistic about the future of the Spanish language in the U.S. They point to conflicting studies that reveal a failure on the part of second- and third-generation Hispanics to preserve the language, a trend which is gradually diminishing the pool of Spanish speakers. Additionally, recent studies by sociologists indicate a rapid shift to English among the children of immigrants.

Only time will tell the fate of the Spanish language in the United States, but it appears that, by most accounts, Spanish is here to stay.

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6 Responses to “The Future of Spanish in the United States”

  • I am an english teacher in Russia, and as a native American, i found this article to be interesting. I never learned Spanish, because obviously i was interested in Russian, but it was fun to read about. thanks.

  • I disagree, I think spanish will takeover as the number 1 language in the united states. It may never be the first accepted but its on pace to becoming a universal language in the states. With the huge emergence of spanish-speaking jobs, and spanish-speaking workers being mandatory in my services across the nation its not hard to fathom.

  • Spanish will unseat English as the primary language of the U.S. some time in the 2040s or 2050s. High immigrations rates from the Spanish-speaking world, high Hispanic birth rates both in the U.S. and abroad, a porous border with Latin America, a lack of interest among immigrants in learning English, technological developments that discourage integration and assimilation, and acceptance of multiculturalism will ultimately doom English to a secondary status in the United States. Spanish may entirely supplant English in the U.S. by 2100 (alongside Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic).

  • Preposterous. The number of spanish speaking immigrants stopped growing in the mid-2000s and the number of spanish speakers is declining from enculturation and the generational shift to English among U.s. born children of immigrants. German was spoken by millions of Americans in the late 19th century, Churches, schools, newspapers littered the midwestern cities they lived in. They are all gone.

  • News flash….Portuguese is now, without a doubt, the NATIONAL language of Angola, spoken fluently by 90% of the population. And yes, Angola is in the top 3 strongest economies of Africa. This only strengthens the Portuguese language profile internationally. How do I know? Well, for starters, China is presently doing TONS of trade with OIL RICH (among many other commodities) Angola. Mozambique is not far behind….also officially a Portuguese speaking country. Macau, China, is now the Las Vegas of the world, they make much more money than Las Vegas. So what you say? Well, the Chinese are learning Portuguese as a second language like never before. Why? For starters, Portuguese is the co-official language along with Cantonese, and….China is present ly doing tons of trade with ALL of the Portuguese speaking countries (10 in all). When China is your big trading partner, needless to say, you are in VERY GOOD SHAPE linguistically and otherwise. Then there is East Timor, about 700km directly south of Macau, China. So what? The co-official language of East Timor is, you guessed it, Portuguese. Moreover, the Chinese are doing tons of trade with OIL RICH East Timor. God blessed most of the Portuguese ex-colonies. Most of them a natural resource rich and incredibly beautiful i.e., Brazil. Oh, speaking of Brazil, it is now the 5th strongest economy of the world. The 2016 summer Olympics will be hosted there. The official and national language there is, you guessed it, Portuguese, spoken by 100% of Brazilians. In case you don’t know, Portuguese is spoken by 51% of the population of \South America. Hard to believe right? Try this on for size…Brazil occupies 48% of the South American territory – that’s a continent unto itself! And of course there is beautiful Portugal, the crown of Europe. Never have I met 1 person who did not fall in love with Portugal. Tourists say that they much prefer the mild manners an friendliness of the Portuguese versus the temperamental and rude Spaniards. And the Portuguese Azores and Madeira islands. My god, those are the sub-tropical peals of the Atlantic. Ditto for the Cape Verde Islands (officially Portuguese speaking). Now many countries in the world want to join the CPLP (Portuguese speaking countries) – some have joined already i.e., Equatorial Guinea, and they even adopted Portuguese as a third official language. Galicia, Spain is next, then Senegal, and there are already many associate members such as Galicia (they already speak Galego-Portuguese), India (currently, former Portuguese colony Goa is undergoing a Portuguese language and culture renaissance there), Maritius, etc., etc. Look at a CPLP map and see for yourself how many parts of the world are either part of CPLP, or want to be a part of it i.e, Australia. Take the Lusofony games: Members of this are spread out across the globe – it is the equivalent of the Commonwealth games. Folks, the Portuguese language is exploding fast ALL OVER THE WORLD. This is what constitutes and INTERNATIONAL language, not Spanish which is limited only to Spain, 1/2 of the Americas, and 1 tiny country in Africa. Even in South Florida Spanish is being squeezed out by the huge numbers of Portuguese speakers there. Portuguese has already surpassed the French, Russian, German, and Japanese languages in terms of native speakers. Just Brazil alone has 205 million native Portuguese speakers. When you tack on the Portuguese speakers from the other countries/regions/territories in the world, you get a number like 270 million. Global/International language folks, that what Portuguese is. Thank you.

  • Spanish speakers have an exaggerated sense of importance when it comes to the Spanish language. Spanish will not overtake English in the USA…that is only a pipe dream. The Spanish speakers should be more worried about their sister language Portuguese, which is on the verge of overtaking Spanish! Mary is quite right, A global/international language is one which is spoken widely across the globe, and one that has economic clout. Portuguese is such a language right now – Spanish is not. It is only spoken officially in 1/3 of the Americas. Canada, USA, and Brazil do not speak Spanish. So let’s not put the cart before the horse Spanish speakers. Okay, there are many Spanish speakers living in the USA, but don’t think for a moment that they are going to give up English for Spanish – never. There are many speakers of Turkish in Germany (roughly 8 million), does that mean that the German government is going to make Turkish the official language of Germany? No. Same with France that has a community of millions of Arabic speakers, but they will not swap French for Arabic, how stupid would that be? Paraguay has over a million Brazilian Portuguese speakers.Do you think Paraguay will make Portuguese the new official, or co-official language. No. They may make the teaching of it in schools mandatory, which they already have done there, and in Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina by the way.

    So stop this nonsense about Spanish overtaking Enlgish in the USA. In a couple of generations the descendants of Spanish speakers won’t know how to speak Spanish anyway. It is bound to happen sad to say. Already the children of Spanish speakers can barely carry on a conversation in Spanish – – imagine in another generation.

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