Spanish speakers in the USA: The heritage language

By  Mercedes Soledad Moresco

According to the US Census, there are 37.5 million US households where the Spanish language is spoken today, and all indications are that this number will increase in the coming years. While powerful statistics sound impressing, it is clear that with regards to the growth of language, this advance is not as stable as it is in the Hispanic population. Why is this? Generally, in most cases, English is the dominant language in these households. I am referring particularly to immigrant families that consist of second and third generations with no real knowledge of Spanish. In some cases they understand but do not speak it and if they do, they speak with a basic vocabulary; others, especially those of the third generation immigrants, they do not speak or understand it.

From a linguistic point of view, statistics show that Spanish is a language of inheritance, meaning, is the weaker language of bilingual speakers who belong to immigrant families. The children and grandchildren of native Spanish speakers are not actual users of the language. It could be they understand but speak it poorly; they fail to master the language, therefore are not able to consider it a real bilingualism. These particular cases do not differ too much from any learner of Spanish as a foreign language.

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These are the hard facts of a linguistic reality in USA. In my opinion, this situation could be improved if we as Hispanics are more aware of how important it is to maintain, grow and teach our language to our children and grandchildren, to give them a tool that, by inheritance is theirs, but if we do nothing to cultivate the language, they will lose it.

It’s up to us Hispanics, to make sure that our culture together with our language is passed on to our children and their children so it can grow to the same extent of the growing Hispanic population in USA.

Sourse: Edition 25 Aldea Magazine

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