A recent Pew Research Center report reveals that young Latinos facing criticism for not speaking Spanish are not alone. About 54% of Latinos who have limited or no proficiency in Spanish have experienced feelings of inadequacy due to this, mirroring the sentiments expressed by “No Sabo Kids” on TikTok. Additionally, 40% of all Latino adults report frequently hearing jokes made by other Hispanics about those who struggle with the language.
The study also uncovers an intriguing contradiction, noted co-author Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of race and ethnicity research. While a significant majority of Latinos (85%) believe it’s somewhat important for future generations of Hispanics to speak Spanish, nearly 80% assert that proficiency in the language is not a prerequisite for identifying as Hispanic.
This shift in perspective, indicating that Spanish proficiency is not synonymous with Latino identity, may be indicative of evolving demographics. As the number of third-generation Latinos (those born in the U.S. to U.S.-born parents) increases and around 40% of U.S.-born Latinos marry non-Latinos, cultural dynamics are evidently changing.
Other key findings from the survey include:
- 75% of all U.S. Latinos claim to be proficient in holding conversations in Spanish.
- Among third- or higher-generation Latinos, only 34% believe they can engage in a conversation in Spanish quite well, with a mere 14% feeling very confident in doing so.
- There are variations in opinions across different Latino subgroups, with Central Americans (79%) placing greater importance on future generations speaking Spanish compared to South Americans (65%), Mexicans (64%), Cubans (63%), and Puerto Ricans (59%).
- Spanglish usage is acknowledged by 63% of U.S. Latinos, with the practice being more prevalent among second-generation (72%) Latinos than third-generation or higher (45%).
- More Latino Democrats (88%) than Latino Republicans (80%) consider it at least “somewhat important” for future generations to speak Spanish.
The survey primarily focuses on the perspectives of U.S. Latinos regarding Spanish, which is the most commonly spoken non-English language in the country. Pew estimates that nearly 40 million Latinos speak Spanish at home. Nonetheless, it is essential to recognize that many Brazilians, who primarily speak Portuguese, also identify as Latino according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, there are numerous Indigenous languages spoken throughout Latin America.