Hispanic Youth Drive Latino English Proficiency

Young Latino English ProficiencyThe number of young Hispanics who are proficient in English has gone up over the last 14 years, according to an April report from the Pew Research Center. The study, which explored the use of English in the home, shows children and young adult Hispanics increasingly less reliant on Spanish as the language of choice to communicate with family and friends.

In 2014, the Pew study reports, around 88 percent of Latino children between 5 and 14 years of age say they either speak only English at home or speak English “very well.” The rate of English use in the home is up from only 73 percent of the group who responded the same way in 2000.

Where young adults are concerned, Latinos aged 18 to 33 years of age, 76 percent told researchers they speak only English at home or speak the language “very well.” In 2000, only 56 percent of the demographic said the same.

Pew attributes the increase of English use by Hispanics mostly to demographics. Essentially, the growth in U.S.-born Hispanics over the number of Hispanics coming from Latin America has shifted. The number of newly-arrived immigrants from Hispanic regions has only fallen over the last decade, Pew reports. In 2014, for example, 65 percent of U.S. Latinos were born in the United States. This compares to only 60 percent of U.S.-born Latinos in 2000. The implication of this, of course, is that the number of young Hispanics growing up in households where only English is spoken has increased. In 2014, children from age 5 to 17 in households where only English is spoken was at 37 percent. This compares to only 30 percent in 2000.

However, the same pattern of English proficiency isn’t a part of the demographic profile of older Latino’s– those aged between 34 and 49 years of age. Among this group, 55 percent say they speak English very well or exclusively speak English at home, a number that’s nearly unchanged from the 53 percent who reported English proficiency in 2000. Among Latinos 69 years older or older, only 43 percent told researchers they hold English proficiency in 2014. This compares to 42 percent who reported proficiency in 2000.

Pew’s analysis also shows that Spanish and English bilingual skills among Latinos is growing. The research center reports 36.7 million Latinos– 73 percent– speak Spanish at home. The statistic, which translates across all Latin American countries of origin, means Spanish is the highest non-English language spoken in the United States.

But while English is increasingly adopted among Latinos, 95 percent of the group see the language as an important part of their heritage. A full 95 percent of the group told Pew that the Spanish language is an important element for future generations. Interestingly, 71 percent of survey respondents told researchers that the ability to speak Spanish is not a crucial aspect of being Latino. Conversely, 28 percent of respondents told researchers the opposite, saying the ability to speak Spanish is central to the Latino identity.

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