Welcome to the United States, aquí Se Habla Español

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Hablar español en Los Estados Unidos no es un lujo, si no una necesidad.

If you didn’t understand the previous sentence then you’re at a disadvantage on many fronts. And before you get on a soap box and start preaching about how “this is America! Learn the language…speak English!”, stop.

Just. Stop.

Many people stopped listening to that “English Only” gibberish of the previous decade a long time ago; most of them coming from corporate america.

I was shopping with my wife at the Wal-Mart in my Central Connecticut neighborhood when I noticed a curious thing. The employees were putting up new billboard signs identifying the different sections at the mega store…in Spanish. There it was, side by side, a sign which read “Auto Care”, “Cuidado para el Automovil”. You can argue there’s a need for that “se habla español” service in large Latino hubs like Miami or Los Angeles, but Central Connecticut?

There’s a simple answer to that question with a lot of zeros at the end: $1.5 trillion dollars. That’s how much it’s estimated U.S. Hispanics will pump into the economy this year, a large slice coming from Spanish dominant Latinos.

A recent study by the Instituto Cervantes finds that more people speak Spanish in the United States than anywhere in the world; second only to Mexico.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that up to 43 million people will be speaking Spanish in 2020. This shouldn’t be a surprise given the history that language has had in this country. There are nine states that started off as Spanish colonies. Add on the acquisition of Puerto Rico and the consistent emigration from Latin American countries and well, like I said – it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Companies see that the best way to grow their business is to better serve the booming Latino population in their language of choice. Sometimes that’s English, sometimes Spanish and sometimes both.

Wells Fargo currently has a bilingual television commercial where a young Latino interacts with his loved one by mobile phone. He addresses the person first in Spanish and then in English in a very natural manner which does not alienate English only audiences.

Job Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXElVy_p0u8

In truth it is increasingly difficult not to come across Spanish being spoken in the U.S., no matter the market size.

The bilingual approach is not exclusive to sales and marketing. Media is also tapping into this dynamic. In 2013, I was part of the team who produced One Nacion, ESPN’s Hispanic Heritage Month television special. The dynamic live program was bilingual and aired simultaneously on the English language network ESPN and Spanish language network ESPN Deportes.

This year, One Nacion will be produced from South Florida in collaboration with the Fusion Network (October 14, 7-8P ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes; 8-830P ET on Fusion).

In January I assisted in launching ESPN’s One Nacion Digital, a destination where content in English and Spanish reside together, sometimes intertwining languages reflecting the reality of most U.S. Hispanic households.

One Nacion Page: http://espn.go.com/espn/onenacion/

One Nacion Blog: http://espn.go.com/blog/onenacion/

This September 1st that initiative expands to radio programming with the new podcast One Nacion with Max (Bretos) y Marly (Rivera). Max works as an anchor on ESPN programs like SportsCenter. Marly is a reporter for ESPN Deportes following all of the major leagues in New York City and MLB nationally. It’s an example of diversity driving innovation by applying intersectional thinking. The new bilingual podcast focuses on the achievements and challenges of Latino athletes on and off the field. It also seeks to engage audiences about the social and cultural issues which affect athletes and fans alike.

The skeptics say that eventually Latinos will fall in line like other communities and over time be mostly English dominant. That’s doubtful given a 2012 Pew Research study which found that 95% of Hispanic adults, including those born in the U.S. – said it is important that future generations of Hispanics speak Spanish.

No importa si es tu lenguaje natal o solamente sabes algunas palabras; el  español es parte de la identidad de los latinos.

Y como vemos más y más…para salir adelante en este país se tiene que entender el español igualmente como él inglés.

Welcome to the United States…aquí Se Habla Español! 

Hugo Balta

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