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Why Study Spanish

Apply yourself to the study of the Spanish language with all the assiduity you can. It and the English covering nearly the whole face of America, they should be well known to every inhabitant, who means to look beyond the limits of his farm.
-------------------------Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1788)

Americans are finding that not knowing Spanish can be a handicap, whether dealing with immigrants or schmoozing at a business lunch in the boss' native tongue.
---------------------USA Today (6/19/2001)


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The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes recently referred to the decade of 1990-2000 as a "silent reconquest" by the Hispanic community of the United States, using language as its main weapon.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the Hispanic population in the United States reached approximately 47 million in 2008, making the U.S. the most-populated country of Hispanics in the world after Mexico (population 109 million). Of the total U.S. population of approximately 306 million, 15% or 1 in 7 people are Hispanic while growing by more than 1.7 million per year or four times more than the average national population. The U.S. is consequently now the 2nd largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. In 2003, Latinos became the largest minority group in the U.S., and by 2020 they will number approximately 52 million; by 2050 they are projected to reach 96 million (25% of the U.S. population). In the past decade, the Hispanic population has more than tripled in the State of South Carolina, and almost doubled in the local tri-county area (Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester). From 2000-07, South Carolina has the second largest growth rate of Hispanics in the U.S. (45.5%), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Because of such growth, businesses both locally and nationally are aggressively recognizing the purchasing power of the Hispanic market in the United States with attempts to establish ties to a community previously neglected.

In 2008 the purchasing power of U.S. Hispanics was approximately $870 billion, thereby representing the 17th largest economy in the world, larger than the GNP of Brazil, Spain or Mexico. By 2010 and 2015, it is expected to reach id="mce_marker" trillion and id="mce_marker".3 trillion respectively (as also supported by Research and Markets). Currently Hispanic buying power is growing at triple the rate of inflation (ClickZ Network). According to the Detroit News article, "The extra attempts by corporate America to reach the Hispanic market appeals to Judith Olivarria, 25, a customer service phone operator who works in Tucson, Arizona. Spanish is her first language and although she's fluent in English, she's more likely to buy goods promoted in her native tongue, she said. 'If I see something in Spanish, I tend to buy it more...'" Hispanic owned businesses in the U.S. totaled 2.2 million firms, employed over 1.3 million people, and generated id="mce_marker"86.3 billion in revenues in 1997. According to an economic Census report released in March 2001, Hispanic owned firms accounted for nearly 6 percent of all businesses in the United States at that time. Currently, Hispanics are churning out businesses at three times the rate of the U.S. national average.

A 2005 study by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Hogar Initiative shows that almost 50% of Hispanics in the U.S. are homeowners, and that 60% of Latinos will own their homes by 2010. The same study states that from 1980 to 2000 there was an 80% increase in Latino families with annual incomes over $40,000 per year; this rate is three times that of the increase for the overall middle class. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University reported in 2004 that 48% of Hispanics who do not own a home say that are likely to purchase one in the next 2-3 years and that they prefer or need to work with a Spanish-speaking agent when engaged in reale estate affairs.

Between 1990 and 2002, Hispanic buying power in South Carolina more than quadrupled, ranking the state as the sixth fastest-growing in the nation, according to University of Georgia research. In August 2005, a University of South Carolina study showed Hispanics in S.C. with an approximate annual purchasing potential of more than $2 billion, 80% of which is spent within the state. According to a 2002 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, South Carolina is one of five states with the fastest rates of growth for Hispanic-owned firms between 1997 and 2002: New York (57%), Rhode Island and Georgia (56% each), Nevada and South Carolina (48% each).

From January 2004 to June 2006, the number of patients reporting Spanish as their primary language more than doubled (from 794 to 2,081) at the Medical University of South Carolina. Other Charleston area hospitals reported similar increases for the same time period.

Almost 14 million U.S. Hispanics are on the Internet, a cyber-population only exceeded by Spain and Mexico. According to the Domain Industry News Magazine, one in 10 Internet users worldwide are Spanish-speakers making it the #3 language in the cyber-community, and from 2000-2006 the number of Spanish-speaking Internet users grew 231%, a rate surpassing that of English-speaking Internet users.

With 12% of the U.S. population speaking Spanish, no prospective career is immune to the benefits of knowing this language.

In summary, the following reinforce the need for all students to learn Spanish:

  • U.S. is the 2nd largest Spanish-speaking country in the world
  • Language most commonly spoken by the U.S.'s nearest neighbors and most new immigrants
  • Dominant language spoken in 21 countries on five continents
  • The 2nd most widely spoken language in the world, used by over 330 million people
  • Approximately 12% of the U.S. population, 80% of Hispanics in U.S., speak Spanish
  • By the year 2020, an estimated 52 million people will speak Spanish in the U.S. (15.5% of the U.S. population).
  • U.S. companies are well-established in all Spanish-speaking countries (e.g., there are 24 U.S. banks in Mexico City alone)
  • Necessary for tourists in Mexico and much of South America
  • Useful for people living anywhere in the U.S.

CAREERS USING SPANISH: accounting, administrative assistance, advertising, agriculture, banking, business, communications, construction, consulting, criminal justice, emergency services, employment and welfare offices, engineering, foreign commerce, government service (C.I.A., F.B.I., etc.), health care, import-export, journalism, law enforcement, legal services, library service, management, manufacturing, marketing, medicine, military, psychiatry, public relations, research scholarship, sales, social work, teaching, telecommunications, translation, travel industry, U.S. Customs.

For articles on prevalance of Spanish and the Hispanic population in the U.S. and the Charleston area, see www.charleston.net. For additional statistics on Hispanics in the U.S., see www.ushcc.com/res-statistics.html.