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Is The Spanish Language Causing An American Identity Crisis

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The United States is a young country made up of many different nationalities. People from all over the world come together and create a melting pot of cultures. From the beginning of colonization in the Americas immigrants have ruled the land they fought to conquer. However, somewhere after all the fighting stopped life started to become comfortable, Americans decided change was in order. How does a new country that is made up of immigrants identify itself? There are many ways that Americans identify with the culture they created. The use of money, power and age are a few examples. Language also is a source of identity for many people in the United States. The change from many languages to a national language of English is relatively new occurrence. However this shift is also the one thing that has brought the nation together more than anything else. Presently there is a new threat that is pushing its way into or perhaps back into the American culture. The Spanish language is establishing itself as a national language in many parts of the country as more and more immigrants from Latin America relocate to the United States. Having an additional language compete with English is a source of fear for many, which can only be conquered through education.

Recently American culture and language has begun a change, a change which has an uncertain outcome. At the center of the uncertainty is a clash of two cultures, the American culture and the culture of immigrant Latin America. There is a barrier between these two cultures that starts with its language and ends with it as well. An excellent example of how large this gap is becomes evident in the construction and services industries of America. In the article, Trends in the Low-Wage Immigrant Labor Force, Randolph Capps wrote, “In 2000 and 2005, the U.S. immigrant population increased from 31.1 to 35.7 million…At the same time, the number of unauthorized immigrantsвЂ"the focus of the debate surrounding immigration reformвЂ"increased past 11 million (Cammorta 2007). The number and share of immigrants, especially the unauthorized, increased most rapidly in low-wage, low-skilled jobs in key areas of the economy, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and services (Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, v30 n1 p40-68 2008).” These numbers only tell a portion of the story. There is a growing number of immigrants and their education level is lower than the national average, the real issue is where they are being placed in American society. Americans are placing them in roles of general labor and service. One gentleman went so far as to say that we are making a new servant class, when asked about the difference between native born Americans and Latin American born immigrants (Hispanic journal of behavioral sciences, v30 n1 p40-68 2008). So what drives this difference? The difference is education, specifically the education of the immigrant community in American ways and the education of Americans to other immigrant cultures. There are so many hurdles to overcome with no clear cut solutions one wonders if it is possible for equality.

A culture clash is evident but we also have a language barrier that is widening and at the heart of these issues is the matter of immigration. The statistics from the US census bureau shows that there are many countries that are immigrating to The United States not just Latin American countries (US Census Dept, 2007). So why is it the heated debate only over the Spanish speaking cultures immigration to the United States? Polls show that the fear around Latin American immigrant population is a fear of fundamental changes in the American way, White middle age Americans polled said 55% to 35% (10% No Opinion) that the Latin American immigration was changing American culture (Furrows gallop poll, 2007). Language is at the forefront of these fears because language is how we as people communicate. Having another language push its way into the American culture steps on two of Americans preverbal toes. First Americans do not like to be told what to do, as evident by there short but colorful history with other nations. Second Americans are resistant to change, especially change that is instigated by a subclass that they have created. An example that might sound far fetched but is fairly right on target is, the subclass created by slavery and subsequent emancipation. Unknowingly Language is being used as a wedge between the two cultures. This wedge is to separate the “higher” American culture class from the Latin American culture class. Education on both sides of this problem is the only way to guarantee that we as Americans can learn from mistakes in our past and impact the future.

America is a land of opportunity. Wither that opportunity is to get a job and support a family, or the opportunity to achieve goals that one has set out for oneself from a young age. America is also a land in which the consumer rules. The consumer tells the government how it wants to spend its money. The consumer tells the manufacture what to make, how much of it they will need and even have the power to shape the reality of other consumers through the entertainment or marketing empire that it owns. What happens when this consumer changes from a classic American value set, to a blend with both classic American and Latin American immigrant value sets? That is where America finds itself today. Corporations understand this shift and are marketing to the growing population of Spanish speaking consumers that have money to spend on product. Spanish speaking consumers are on board and are letting their influence be heard by corporations like Wal-Mart. What about the old America public, are they on board? In a recent public opinion poll for the Kroeger chain of supermarkets, they found that a Spanish speaking mother is more likely to buy a product that is packaged in the Spanish language as opposed to English language and even more apt to buy a brand that is labeled in Spanish and is known to her from her native country (Furrows gallop poll, 2007). With a growing population of non-native Latin American families moving into communities it is a necessity for these businesses to focus on the growing demographic that can increase their businesses by over 35 percent (Urban Institute, 2007 pg. 35-41). In the same poll from Kroeger they found that 55 percent of Americans mother would not purchase a product that was packaged in the Spanish language although the product may be familiar to them (Urban Institute, 2005). This speaks again to the view that the Spanish speaking



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