Saturday, December 1, 2007

English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States

English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States
Shirin Hakimzadeh and D'Vera Cohn, Pew Hispanic Center

Report Materials
Complete Report

Other Resources

Nearly all Hispanic adults born in the United States of immigrant parents report they are fluent in English. By contrast, only a small minority of their parents describe themselves as skilled English speakers. This finding of a dramatic increase in English-language ability from one generation of Hispanics to the next emerges from a new analysis of six Pew Hispanic Center surveys conducted this decade among a total of more than 14,000 Latino adults. The surveys show that fewer than one-in-four (23%) Latino immigrants reports being able to speak English very well.

However, fully 88% of their U.S.-born adult children report that they speak English very well. Among later generations of Hispanic adults, the figure rises to 94%. Reading ability in English shows a similar trend.
As fluency in English increases across generations, so, too, does the regular use of English by Hispanics, both at home and at work. For most immigrants, English is not the primary language they use in either setting. But for their grown children, it is.

The surveys also find that Latino immigrants are more likely to speak English very well, and to use it often, if they are highly educated, arrived in the United States as children or have spent many years here. College education, in particular, plays an important role in the ability to speak and read English. Among the major Hispanic origin groups, Puerto Ricans and South Americans are the most likely to say they are proficient in English; Mexicans are the least likely to say so.

The transition to English dominance occurs at a slower pace at home than it does at work. Just 7% of foreign-born Hispanics speak mainly or only English at home; about half of their adult children do. By contrast, four times as many foreign-born Latinos speak mainly or only English at work (29%). Fewer than half (43%) of foreign-born Latinos speak mainly or only Spanish on the job, versus the three-quarters who do so at home.
The main data sources for this report are six surveys conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center from April 2002 to October 2006. They included interviews with more than 14,000 native-born and foreign-born Latino adults, ages 18 and older, irrespective of legal status. Latinos born in Puerto Rico, many of whom arrive on the U.S. mainland as Spanish speakers, are included as foreign born.

In analyzing the data on English use and prevalence from these surveys, this report relies on four measures based on respondents' ratings of their English-speaking skills, their English-reading skills, their level of English use at home, and their level of English use at work.

Two of these surveys, along with a more recent nationwide survey of Latinos taken by the Pew Hispanic Center in October and November of this year, also provide a clear measure of how Hispanics believe that insufficient English language skill is an obstacle to their acceptance in the U.S. In surveys taken in 2007, 2006 and 2002, respondents were asked about potential sources of discrimination against Hispanics. In all three surveys, language skills was chosen more often than the other options as a cause of discrimination.
Other Resources
Latinos Online
by Susannah Fox and Gretchen Livingston

2006 National Survey of Latinos: The Immigration Debate
by Roberto Suro and Gabriel Escobar, Pew Hispanic Center

Hispanic Attitudes Toward Learning English
Pew Hispanic Center

Changing Channels And Crisscrossing Cultures: A Survey Of Latinos On The News Media
by Roberto Suro, Pew Hispanic Center

Related Article:

Second-generation immigran! ts swift to learn English, study finds

By Susan Ferris -
Published 1:03 pm PST Thursday, November 29, 2007

The rate at which Latino immigrants and their offspring acquire English follows the same "broad trajectory" as immigrants in the past, according to a new survey released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan research center.

Fewer than one in four, or 23 percent, of first-generation immigrants from various Latin American countries surveyed said they could converse in English "very well."

But the figure jumped dramatically in the second generation - U.S.-born Latinos with at least one immigrant parent - to more than than 91 percent reporting they speak English well. The figure is 97 percent for the third generation, or U.S.-born Latinos with an immigrant grandparent.

Pew researchers said that these high figures for the second and and third generations indicate a universal English-speaking ability among those groups, even though they do not add up to 100 percent.

Very few statistical surveys, even with yes or no questions, add up to 100 percent, Pew representatives explained. This survey, they said, was subjective in that participants graded themselves and some people could be low-balling their abilities. Those few who didn't rank their English skill as high could have grown up outside the United States, lowering their English ability, representatives also said, or they could have grown up in an isolated ethnic enclaves.

Overall, said Pew Hispanic Center senior writer D'Vera Cohn, the surveyed showed that English language acquisition through generations - and bilingual skills - are similar to the past.

"We just hope we're giving out some hard data to inform people about this crucial issue of learning English," Cohn said. "Immigrants of a century ago had generally the same movement."

In conclusion, according to the report, "Our analysis finds that the ability to speak English and the likelihood of using it in everyday life rise sharply from Hispanic immigrants to their U.S.-born adult children."

The survey took place over four years between 2002 and 2006 and included more than 14,000 people of various Latino backgrounds. Those surveyed were immigrants and their U.S.-born adult offspring and grandchildren. Another central finding, Cohn said, was the large number of second-generation U.S.-born Latinos who reported being bilingual in English and Spanish. Among the third generation, Spanish fades, she said.

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