No More Spanish in America: ¿Sí o No?
by Gloria Constanza – Partner and Chief Contact Strategist / d expósito & Partners
Gloria Constanza – Partner and Chief Contact Strategist / d expósito & Partners
Lately, as we have grown accustomed to, there have been some articles suggesting that the use of Spanish among Hispanics may be dying out. I have been hearing very similar comments and reading similar studies since I started in this industry -almost thirty years ago. In fact, I can even quote an ex-colleague saying, “Chica, don’t waste your time in the Hispanic advertising industry -it will disappear in the next five to ten years.”
However, today our industry is stronger than ever and it is not in the English-speaking, Hispanic-targeted space, but within the Spanish-speaking, Hispanic-targeted environment. Reality is the use of Spanish is now more prominent than ever before and, simultaneously, so is the use of English, of course, without this having to become a contradiction.
What is happening is that Latinos are becoming less monolingual and more bilingual. As this trend reveals, being bilingual is a Latino’s most valued communications asset -the one that adds an edge and expands opportunities. The Nielsen chart below is a clear indication of this trend:
Compellingly, this is a trend that is projected to keep growing. According to HIS, by 2034 there will be over 55.4 MILLION Hispanics age 2+ speaking Spanish in the United States vs. 36.8 million in 2014.
The numbers and predictions take care of making an overwhelming case for the continuity of the U.S. Hispanic Market. Unlike most immigrant groups that undergo a process of native language decline in favor of cultural assimilation, the use of Spanish by U.S. Hispanics remains impressively strong due to various factors, among them:
1. Ongoing immigration
3. Growth of Spanish-language media
4. Widespread availability of Spanish
While in the last six years there has been massive deportation of undocumented Hispanics, we have also witnessed an ongoing immigration of documented, and still undocumented, Hispanics from all over Latin America. This yields an overall larger net number of new Hispanics in the U.S. than those deported. This inclination is likely to continue as a Hispanic labor force will become essential given that the non-Hispanic population is aging at a faster pace: 23.2% of non-Hispanics are age 55+, and are either retired or expected to retire in the next ten years. For Hispanics, the percentage is less than half, at only 11.6%. These statistics are not new to anyone as we know that
Hispanic is a very young segment.
Though this phenomenon is singular, it is not by any means the only one: it can be compounded with countless other sociopolitical afflictions of the Latin American region which continues to face economic challenges, political turmoil and instability. The overall result is an uncertain and unstable socioeconomic ecosystem that keeps driving migration to the United States.
Our proximity to Latin America is also another factor that makes it easier for Latinos to migrate to this country. Actually, we are so close that we are only a border away.
The unstoppable explosion of digital technology is serving as the gateway to facilitate and ease communications with loved-ones in Latin America – thereby increasing the use of Spanish. The hyper growth of apps -such as Whatsapp, Skype, Tango and Oovoo, among others- have made it easier for Hispanics to shorten the geographic and emotional distance by being in constant, or frequent, communication with their families and friends back home. The proliferation of Social Media, which is language- and culture-agnostic, has brought down the walls between countries.
Connectivity transcends borders as people can share events in real time as well as memories from the old days. No matter how far people may be from each other, technology bridges the distance and the conversation in Spanish brings everyone back to their origins. At the same time, the more favorable life experience of those in America operates like a magnet that attracts those left behind.
Growth of Spanish-language Media
In the last ten years alone, the evolution of Spanish-language media has been in an upswing. It has gone from just eight TV channels, including cable, to over twenty-five TV channels currently. With thousands of Spanish-targeted digital publishers, over 700 Spanish radio stations and multiple print publications; the presence and vibrancy of Spanish seems to be at an all-time high.
Inevitably, this has contributed for Spanish to be consumed at home. Just last month, I attended the HACER Scholarship Awards’ Lunch, an event sponsored by McDonald’s, and something peculiar happened: Rafael Pineda (who had been New York’s Univision anchorman for more than four decades) was there and, ironically, many of the students in attendance were taking pictures -and selfies!- with him. These were kids, 16 and 17, all getting ready to enter college and, of course, their English proficiency was unquestionable. Yet they recognized the man who had visited their homes every night -bringing the news in Spanish.
This also reinforces the fact that Hispanics’ media habit can be attributed to two concurring factors: environment and choice. Environment, as a result of the multigenerational composition of our Market. And choice, because we enjoy the familiarity and comfort of the experience of enjoying Spanish content that is -and because it is- relevant to us.
The proliferation -truly an outburst- of Spanish media outlets, and even more importantly, the different sources to watch, listen and read in Spanish, compounded with the massive content available, is allowing people to spend more time with Spanish-language media. A glaring example of this is the recent May ratings sweep: according to Nielsen, Univision performed as the #2 network in the total market against person 18-34, an impressive accomplishment by any standard or measurement.
Widespread Availability of Spanish
Today, the use of Spanish is almost ubiquitous in the United States. Latinos are spreading beyond the traditional enclaves. From 2000 to 2013, according to Nielsen, we saw eleven non-traditional DMA’s double in terms of Hispanic population.
The trend could also help explain an ongoing process of cultural reclaiming and re-rooting with icons such as Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez polishing their Spanish skills for their lives of duality in the New America. Who would have thought, two decades ago, that Romeo Santos, a bachata singer, would command the power to sell out Yankee Stadium two nights in a row?
Are Hispanics not adopting or learning English at all? It would be untrue -and foolish- to say that.
However, the evidence shows that while learning English, they are recouping, improving or maintaining their use of Spanish, as a fluid part of behaving like New Americans.
For the smart brands that want to lead in this market space, this is a reality to watch closely. For those still in doubt, I will say, let’s revisit this subject again in the next fifteen to twenty years. ¿Sí o no?
Gloria Constanza, Partner & Chief Contact Strategist at d expósito & Partners, has received multiple media awards in the areas of strategic planning and best use of media. She has been honored by the NHAP (National Hispanic Association of Publications), and was recognized in 2008 as Executive Media Planner of the Year by AHAA (Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies). She has handled some of the largest budget programs from various clients and categories in the U.S. Hispanic Market. She is a member of the 4A’s Media Measurement Committee.
This opinion piece is part of a series of articles, blogs and White Paper documents from
d expósito & Partners. This first article originally appeared in Hispanicad.com
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