TAMPA, Florida – As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, ABC Action News examines life from the perspective of Americans whose Hispanic parents never taught them Spanish because they feared it would hold them back from the “American Dream “.
“My parents are both Spanish speaking. They speak fluently, but they didn’t want to teach myself and my brothers, âTampa lawyer Michelle Gilbert said. “They wanted to assimilate into the culture, and they didn’t want us to have English with Spanish accents.”
Gilbert’s great-great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Spain, but even three generations later, his parents were still concerned that the Spanish language was an obstacle to the American dream.
“My father’s family, mostly because it was a poor family, worked in the cigar factories in the Tampa area. My father was the first in his family to go to college. My mother didn’t go to college, she stayed home and started a family. Yeah, I think that was largely the American dream, you know you want to assimilate.
But times are changing.
Gilbert learns Spanish from Lyl Polanco who has Spanish consultants, a Spanish tutor service in Tampa.
âWe have seen before that most of our clients come because you know they want to travel, but now we are seeing more and more clients coming because they need to expand here in the United States,â said explained Polanco. âProfessionals who work in the United States and have to be bilingual to do their jobs here in the United States, that’s the biggest difference I have noticed.
It’s not uncommon to call a business now and hear: âThe call may be recorded, para EspaÃ±ol, cinco trademark. It is an option to obtain information in Spanish.
According to the US census, 13% of the US population speaks Spanish at home, making us the second Spanish-speaking country after Mexico.
This percentage of Spanish speakers almost doubles in Florida and triples in Miami.
“Spanish has long been marginalized as a foreign language in the United States and you see it, for example, in the way it is relegated to foreign language departments in schools and universities and colleges, while in fact it is, by any measure on the mother tongue of the United States, âexplained Heide CastaÃ±eda, professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
CastaÃ±eda’s belief is that the âAmerican Dreamâ is now bilingual.
“I think the time has now come for us to foster bilingual communities, I think, especially here in Florida where in many communities more than half of the population speaks Spanish at home. It makes sense to encourage these skills and not … insist that students, families or young adults speak only English, âCastaÃ±eda said.
For Gilbert, learning Spanish is both personal and professional as a lawyer.
“I probably have over 25% of customers, which are mostly Spanish speakers, âGilbert said.
Experts predict America’s future might look a bit different with one in three Americans speaking Spanish by 2050.
As for learning Spanish, Polanco said people do best with an immersion technique.
You can create this by reading and listening to TV and radio in Spanish, trying to think in Spanish, and having a one-on-one chat with a tutor or other Spanish speakers.
Polanco said what’s handy about learning Spanish with a tutor right now is that it’s all done online via video call, so you can do it at home.