January 8, 2003
Spanish is the dominant language among Hispanic adults in the United
States, but their children use mainly English or are bilingual, a recent survey
"2002 National Survey of Latinos," from the The Pew Hispanic Center and Henry J.
Kaiser Family Foundation. (Sections of the report require Adobe's Acrobat
Forty percent of adults living in the United States who identify themselves as
of Hispanic or Latin origin or descent haven't learned English, according to the
survey, conducted from April to June of last year by the Washington-based Pew
Hispanic Center and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The survey authors determined whether Hispanics were dominant in Spanish or
English by how they answered four questions about their language skills,
including, "Would you say you can read a newspaper or book in Spanish/English
very well, pretty well, just a little, or not at all?"
They interviewed 2,929 Hispanics, including people who were born in the United
States and in other countries, plus 1,008 non-Hispanic whites and 171
non-Hispanic African- Americans.
The survey results showed that a large share of children whose parents were born
in Spanish-speaking countries prefer to use English in their own social settings
in the United States.
Forty-five percent of foreign-born Hispanics surveyed said their children
communicate with their friends mostly in English, and an additional 32 percent
said their children use Spanish and English equally.
Only 18 percent of foreign-born Latinos said their children communicate only in
Spanish with their friends; an additional 5 percent said their children speak
more Spanish than English.
Almost all second-generation Hispanics are comfortable with English and are
either English-dominant or bilingual, the survey authors say. Only 7 percent of
second-generation Hispanic immigrants said they were Spanish-dominant.
The survey results illustrate the difference between the opportunities that
Hispanic adults have to learn English in this country compared with those of
their children, said Michael Fix, the director of the immigration-studies
program at the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.
"At least the teaching of English is professionalized within elementary and
secondary schools," he said. "For adults, it's very fragmented."
-Mary Ann Zehr email@example.com