The United States’ Hispanic population currently consists of about 59 million people. But estimates suggest that, by 2050, there will be about 99.8 million Hispanic people in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center, “Spanish is by far the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. today among people ages 5 and older. It is also one of the fastest-growing, with the number of speakers up 233% since 1980, when there were 11 million Spanish speakers.”
In the face of this information, those just starting their career or seeking to transform it might ask whether speaking Spanish will become a requirement to get a job in the United States in the near future.
The answer to that depends on your industry, your line of work and your location. But what are the advantages of learning Spanish, regardless of your industry? And will it be the key to success, no matter the field?
Let’s dive a bit deeper.
Bilingualism & Career Development
Learning a second language is one of the best decisions you can make to boost your career. Language learning could either open doors to international opportunities or better opportunities within your country (for example, bilingual Canadians earn more than their monolingual counterparts).
The extra value that multilingual, culturally aware workers add to businesses in this globalized age is undeniable.
Spanish speakers are the fastest growing segment of the American market. So learning Spanish can make you an ideal link between a company, the growing Latin American market and local Spanish-speaking target demographics.
While it won’t be necessary for all individuals to learn Spanish, all U.S.-based businesses should be looking into Spanish language assistance services.
Where Are You Based?
Speaking Spanish won’t be a must for all jobs because, while the Hispanic population of the U.S, is growing, by 2060, it will still amount only to 26% of the total population, and it won’t be distributed equally across the country.
Currently, according to Harvard University’s Instituto Cervantes, this demographic is mostly located throughout the American Southwest, Florida and New York:
“New Mexico has the largest number of Hispanics as a portion of the overall population, at 48.5%, while California has the largest overall number of Hispanics, at 15,3 million.”
But one shouldn’t make assumptions about how this translates into local bilingualism:
“U.S. born Hispanics account for most of the Latino population growth, and it is known that they become increasingly English dominant by the third and later generations. Identity issues are also relevant in order to examine the future of the Spanish-language in the country: while 71% of Latinos say speaking Spanish is not necessary to be considered Hispanic, 70% of the U.S. population thinks being able to speak English is very important for being truly American.”
In fact, as Hispanic-Americans progress economically and access higher education, their use of Spanish might decrease:
“The factors, length of time in the U.S., educational attainment, income and language ability strongly determine the success of Latinos in the United States, more so than does ethnicity and language use alone. Those who complete high school and attain higher degrees gain proficiency in English and grow up in families with higher incomes, are more likely to succeed. In general, this also tends to be combined with less frequent use of Spanish, as well as a greater likelihood to consider oneself ‘American.’”
Language is, above all, a set of communication tools. Someone who disembarks in a mostly English-speaking country is more likely to adapt to the local language than to inflexibly maintain their native language. All immigrants go through this process.
The Future Looks Bright for Translators
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that translators and interpreters’ job outlook from 2016 to 2026 will experience a growth of 18% (11 points above average).
The future looks bright for translators of all specialties. In our globalized economy, almost all industries are increasingly on the lookout for multilingual professionals and language assistance to support their international operations.
For instance, Major League Basketball is in dire need of Spanish translators, as noted in a New York Times article. There’s an ever-growing number of basketball players from Spanish-speaking countries succeeding in the United States, and “[w]hile almost all Asian players have their own interpreters (…) players who speak Spanish typically must rely on teammates, coaches, clubhouse attendants, media relations officials or sometimes members of the news media to express themselves if they feel uncomfortable doing so in English. (Few reporters covering major league teams are bilingual.)”
So no, Spanish won’t replace English as the official language of the U.S.. But, while speaking Spanish will probably not be a requirement to find a job in America in the near future, those who do speak it will have an incredible competitive advantage against those who don’t — especially in areas such as Texas, Los Angeles and New York.
Aaron Marco Arias is a writer working at Day Translations Inc. He is interested in culture, language, art and the markets of the future.