Americans should push to be bilingual

Meghan Rochelle, Photographer

As of 2016, Spanish is the the second-most used language in the United States. According to an article by  CNN,  approximately 38 million Hispanic people in the country speak Spanish, as well as an additional 2.6 million non-Hispanics. I am one of the few non-Hispanics who are semi-fluent in Spanish, but I am trying to become fully-fluent.

One problem in America is that most Americans choose to not learn a second language, as it is only required in certain levels of education, specifically high school and college. According to an article by YouGov, “75 percent of Americans have no second language.” This is concerning because of the large diversity in America. Learning a second language can help break barriers with people from other cultures and backgrounds.

I believe that all monolingual English speaking Americans should be taught Spanish starting in first grade. Many people will argue that “English is the national language,” but I am here to set the record straight. The U.S. has no official language on the federal level. Spanish is the second most used language and not all of these Spanish speakers choose to speak, or have been taught, English.

Many Americans assume everyone knows English. This is a dangerous assumption. I worked in retail for many years and I know for a fact that my knowledge in Spanish has made many clients happy because they knew little to no English. A simple “tiene preguntas?” can make a Spanish speaking customer feel happy that someone is willing to offer their help and speak a language that the customer feels comfortable using.

America is not known for being a bilingual country, but rather, for not being willing to learn a second language. Many countries, such as Japan, Taiwan, and Mexico teach English as a second language to students. They also pay English speakers well for their teaching skills if they understand the native language of that country. It is weird to think that many countries will require students to learn English, yet America is not known for speaking more than one language. Knowing a second language is essential to networking and international communication. According to a study done by British Council, “Mexican business leaders believe that English is the international language of communication, because it allows them to deal with foreign clients and customers and is a skill in demand due to the fast pace of globalization”.

My interest in learning Spanish is more than just loving the culture, food and Reggaeton music. The main reason I was interested in learning the language was because I was exposed to it at a young age. I moved around eight times because I was a child in a military family. I lived in Hawaii, Washington, Maryland, California and Florida. I moved back to California more than any other state. Hispanics were the majority at my school and in my neighborhood. I was required to learn Spanish starting in 6th grade because of the school I was enrolled in. I still practice Spanish with my boyfriend today, and I am able to practice with my friends as well. I would have never had that type of friendship if I never reached out with my knowledge of Spanish. I believe that if younger generations learn Spanish at a young age, more children will be able to develop connections and communicate with each other in many ways.