For many Spanish-speakers who come to live in the United States, learning English is a huge priority. And when it comes to their children, the same importance is applied. Not too long ago, these same children were raised being taught only English, this was in order to quickly assimilate them to living and growing up being fluent in English.

Data on the number of children growing up bilingual is scarce. But the 2000 Census report on language use stated that 55% of people who reported speaking a language other than English at home reported they spoke English “very well.” And a 2001 Gallup poll found that 22% of English-speaking Americans can speak Spanish well enough to hold a conversation. It should be no surprise because parts of the country are catering more and more to the Spanish-speaker, especially here in the Washington DC area. From 2000 to 2010, the area’s Hispanic population has increased by 73%, this means that 15% of the area are currently Hispanic. Even though Spanish words are more predominant, such as in signs in supermarkets and retail stores, second generation Hispanics are bound to lose the ability to speak their native Spanish unless the parents can curb this trend and raise them to be fully bilingual.

Although parents may have the best intentions and teach their child both English and Spanish, social, economic and peer influences may pressure the child to rely more heavily on English as they get older. Believe it or not, it’s peer pressure that causes the biggest roadblock in staying bilingual. It’s not uncommon for a child to be embarrassed to speak their native tongue around their friends who only speak English. It is also a good idea to have the children practice speaking, reading, writing, and listening especially in the home. Other things for parents to do in order to preserve their children’s culture should include taking them to their home country often and have them interact with family members who only speak the native language. Also all customs that were celebrated in their home country should be celebrated here in the United States, such as quinceañeras, a sweet fifteen party practiced in almost all Spanish-speaking countries. In the end, it’s up to the parents to determine how or if they will raise their children to be bilingual. In a country like the US with such incredibly diversity and large number of Spanish speakers, its a great advantage and benefit to be bilingual.  – J. Rodriguez