According to the prestigious Instituto Cervantes, the U.S.A. has become the second largest Spanish-speaking nation. Our 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11.6 million bilinguals have moved the United States past Colombia and Spain, leaving us second only to Mexico. addalingua’s Stephanie Irizarry reviewed the Institute’s findings and highlighted the following:
- Index of Human Development ranks Spanish as the second most important language on Earth (behind English, but ahead of Mandarin)
- Spanish is the third most widely used language on the internet (even though less than 8% of internet traffic is in Spanish)
- The U.S. Census Office estimates that the United States will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, which will make its Spanish-speaking population the largest on Earth
- If/When that happens, Spanish will be the mother tongue of almost 1/3 of U.S. citizens
Aside from the cognitive benefits, the academic gains, and the additive bilingualism and biliteracy that dual language immersion education provides–the changing demographics of American society mean there’s a pressing need for cross-cultural understanding. Language learning is a critical component of the global war for talent, but its role in breaking down cultural barriers at home is only going to increase in the days ahead.
Finally, some questions for discussion: With the number of heritage Spanish speakers and bilingual Americans on the rise, what challenges and opportunities do you see ahead for our educational system? What are the positive outcomes that will arise for our greater society as we address the challenges and build on the opportunities?