Why doesn't America make its people bilingual?

English and Spanish: is the US going to be bilingual?

Washington / Miami. For a long time, Spanish was the language of underprivileged immigrants in the United States. She was found in restaurant kitchens and in the homes of Latinos who had come to the States in search of the American Dream. But times have changed: today, Spanish plays a role even in the White House. And in the US election campaign.

What is already part of everyday life in Miami, which is dominated by Cuban immigrants, could become the future of the entire nation: a bilingual country in which English and Spanish coexist. Almost everything in Miami in the US state of Florida can already be regulated in Spanish, be it a matter for the authorities or a call to the telephone provider.

The situation is similar in the metropolises of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. More and more websites have a Spanish website, and many companies offer both English and Spanish customer service. But not everyone likes it: The introduction of bilingualism into everyday life creates similar tensions as immigration policy.

“You should be a role model and speak English when we are in the US,” said the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, criticizing his rival Jeb Bush. He had campaigned for Latino votes in Spanish. "That is the reality in the USA," defended Bush, who is married to a Mexican woman.

55.4 million Spanish speakers in the US

The dispute highlights the conflict over the growing number of Latinos. The United States currently has around 55.4 million Spanish speakers, most of them immigrants from Latin America and their descendants. That's 17.4 percent of the US population.

Against this background, some - like Trump - fear a loss of meaning for the English language. The organization Proenglish.org, for example, defends the “historical right of English as a common and unifying language”. Above all, the government and administration would have to remain in English. English should be declared the official language, demands Proenglish boss Robert Vandervoort. For him, this would be an important step in encouraging immigrants to assimilate.

Despite the critics, Spanish has already found its way into the White House. President Barack Obama recently received the Cuban musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club with the words "Bienvenidos a la Casa Blanca" (Welcome to the White House). The website of the official residence of the US President is only available in one other language besides English: Spanish. “That is the wrong message,” criticizes Vandervoort. "The government shouldn't tell people: 'You don't have to learn English, we'll write everything down for you in Spanish." "Otherwise the USA could end up like Canada:" The country is divided - French speakers versus English speakers. "

Spanish is actually no longer a foreign language in the USA

“It's a fascinating moment for the Spanish language,” says Gerardo Piña-Rosales, director of the North American Academy for the Spanish Language (ANLE). Spanish has supplanted French at universities and is also increasingly in demand in schools. In addition, Spanish is actually not a foreign language in the USA. “It was spoken here earlier than English.” This is also reminiscent of the names of states such as Florida and Colorado or city names such as Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Antonio.

According to Piña-Rosales, the Spanish will continue their triumphant advance. US census forecasts seem to support his thesis. According to this, the United States will be the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world by 2050. About a third of the population - an estimated 133 million people - will then speak Spanish. Despite recent developments, Spanish has not yet shed its immigrant image. “When migrants move up, they stop speaking Spanish,” says Piña-Rosales. "They see it as a second class language, and we have to take action against that."

It remains to be seen whether Spanish will catch on across the country. The big cities in particular are becoming more bilingual, as Piña-Rosales thinks.

Ignacio Olmos, director of the New York Cervantes Institute, sees a development towards “functional bilingualism”: Spanish will be present in the USA, but “without threatening English”.