Spanish Isn’t Dead, We’ve Just Transformed It
As Latino political and policy consultants, we are always amazed at the ignorance displayed by some of our English-centric peers, who too often rely on number crunching to proclaim that Spanish is dead.
Just because we don’t speak Spanish with you, doesn’t mean we don’t speak it, consume it or live it. Those who deny the importance of Spanish language are in a sense, false prophets because they are blind to the fact you simply cannot quantify culture – you have to live it.
Generation X, grew up at a time when multiculturalism was starting to be embraced by the nation and our “Latinoness” was a source of pride.
Millennial Latinos, whether they are fluent Spanish speakers or pochos, automatically incorporate the culture and language into their daily lives. It doesn’t matter if they were born in Latin America or the United States. They retain a profound connection with being Latino. And this starts with the language.
Our pride stands in stark contrast to the 1950s or 1960s when speaking Spanish was illegal in schools around the country. A time when Spanish was considered a liability or weakness.
In today’s United States, Latinos and non-Latinos see the value of speaking Spanish, which is a bridge between cultures and generations. It now pervades popular culture. A great example is the musician Pitbull. In the past few years, you couldn’t turn on your radio and avoid hearing him spill over his Spanish phrases on the entire music industry. The same is true for English language car commercials that incorporate a Spanish language phrase or two and Spanish was also found throughout the recently released LEGO Batman movie.
Spanish isn’t dead. It is just being transformed it into a rich, multidimensional and powerful mode of communication because it is connecting with non-Spanish speakers.
We have blended Spanish into our Latino-American culture; where we easily cross between two worlds, two languages and a multitude of customs. In these two worlds we speak both languages, often times in a single sentence, where blend the words into a smooth flow of Spanglish.
While our parents maybe devout Spanish language television and radio participants, we flip back and forth between English and Spanish stations. As Latino professionals operating in an English-centric world, our peers often don’t see this aspect of our lives.
We also spend most of our time, online toggling between social media platforms and bookmarked pages. At home we watch Spanish television with our family; in the car it all depends on our mood. Our iTunes library is filled with English and Spanish language songs. We live this way because we can and it is our norm.
As you develop a strategy and media plan, look beyond “how many voters requested their ballots in Spanish” or foreign versus native-born figures. That is just a dumb, lazy and an ignorant strategy. Figure out how your issue or candidate can connect culturally, emotionally and/or economically to a targeted Latino audience according to generation, geography and socio-economic status.
Next, go after their attention where they congregate and interact. I can guarantee, it’s not in the same places that English speaking whites are always hanging out. Any successful communications strategy and message at Latinos must skillfully navigate both worlds and cultures to truly resonate.