By: Planning Director and fluent Spanglish speaker, Erin Clark
When it comes to language, there is no doubt that it is ever-evolving. From Olde English to “OMG” or Latin to “Spanglish,” humans continue to look for ways to express their thoughts in the simplest form. According to an analysis from the Pew Research Center, approximately six-in-ten adult Latinos (62%) speak English or are bilingual. A similar analysis by Pew Research reported that English proficiency among foreign-born Latino children jumped from 43% in 1980 to 70% in 2013. And, that rises to 89% for US born Latino children. This younger generation is increasingly more comfortable living a dual identity and blurring the lines between cultures and language; as a result, they are often considered the leaders in a growing “ambicultural” trend across the country.
I recently began thinking more deeply about the concept of Spanglish when my daughter (who attends a Spanish immersion pre-school) reminded me of a family rule as I subconsciously plopped my feet on our coffee table, “Mommy, no feet on the mesa!”
I’d first like to clarify what I mean by Spanglish. It is traditionally considered the combination of Spanish and English into a single hybrid word; however, due to the growth of bilingualism, many believe (myself included) it is now more about switching between languages within a sentence or mid-conversation, as portrayed by my daughter’s statement above.
In the past, there has been a social stigma with Spanglish, but I question if it will become more mainstream in the future. If so, it will likely be influenced by a couple key factors:
Culturally minded parenting
Today, parents have a new appreciation for diversity, and this is not limited to just Latinos. Exposing their children to other languages and promoting a deeper understanding of different cultures is more important than ever to Non-Hispanic and Hispanic parents alike. Early childhood immersion and dual language programs are a rapidly growing trend extending from New York to California. In addition to these learning programs, parents are buying into educational videos, apps, puzzles, dolls and games from brands such as Baby Einstein, Baby Abuelita, Leap Frog and Melissa & Doug.
Ambicultural Latinos are driving new social norms primarily due to their love of technology. As one of the most engaged populations in the digital space, their tech and media consumption habits are setting the pace for a more socially accepted form of Spanglish. The Internet offers a space where there is less pressure to conform making way for media sites like Univision on Tumblr, Flama, and Remezcla to deliver culturally relevant content regardless of language. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as other social media channels also provide an avenue for self-expression across a variety of passion points. A perfect example of this is sports – from fútbol or football to baseball, basketball and boxing Latinos use social media to socialize with other fans, players and teams bouncing seamlessly between languages.
The Challenge to Marketers
Although Spanglish may become more widely accepted in a social context, there is still a very strong desire among the Latino community to uphold traditional Spanish. The same Pew Hispanic research showed 95% of Latinos consider it important that future generations speak Spanish. This poses a unique challenge for marketers. Ultimately, the use of language is about self-expression and individuality. It is not a marketing strategy but should be used strategically. Marketers will need to have an even deeper, culturally informed view of the Latino consumers and give them the ownership to express themselves how they want – in Spanish, English…or Spanglish.
Check out this infographic Enzo Castellani has created based on quick takeaways included in this article.
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