Now, show of hands: How many of you are of Hispanic descent and are not able to say a single word outside of "hola?"
As someone with two Mexican parents, I find it so strange when Hispanic people cannot speak Spanish. I mean, I'm not claiming to be perfect at it or anything like that, but I do believe I'm good enough at it to get by (although foreign language placement exams at UH might say otherwise, I digress.)
It's always been a weird concept to me, meeting people whose parents are Mexican, Salvadorian, Columbian, Cuban, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Puerto Rican, and so many others yet they cannot speak the language. Mind boggling, truly.
I know you might be thinking to yourself, "Why does it matter if someone can't speak Spanish? Not everyone can." And you're right, not everyone can. But not everyone is Hispanic, so it's not expected of everyone too.
It is expected, however, for those who are to be able to speak it.
It may sound critical, especially coming from someone who only recently learned the difference between el and él, but I've never been able to understand why a parent wouldn't take the time out to equip their children with this tool.
Sure, there are tons of jobs that exist that don't require you to be bilingual. I'm sure you'd be able to get by on only speaking English for your entire life if that's something you really wanted to do, but the bottom line is that being bilingual is so much more beneficial to you in the long run than you may be able to realize right now.
Let's look at some facts.
According to the United States Census Bureau American Community Survey of 2016, 21.6 percent of people living in the U.S. age five and up speak a language other than English at home, with 40.5 million people—or 13.3 percent—speaking Spanish. That's quite a lot of people already, but it's still surprisingly low considering how many Hispanics populate the country.
And to focus on the workforce, a report titled, "Not Lost In Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market" released by the New American Economy stated that while in 2010 there were roughly 240,000 jobs aimed directly at bilingual workers, the number had increased to about 630,000 by 2015.
One can only imagine how much more it has grown since.
While this data is not specifically centered around bilingual Spanish speakers, it certainly does a great job at emphasizing the point I am trying to make here. With so many jobs being aimed at those who can speak two languages fluently, why wouldn't someone want to help their kids qualify for those chances?
Now, I get that it can be a hassle teaching little kids pretty much anything, but isn't it ultimately worth it in the end?
I'm sure parents have their reasons, and I'm not trying to belittle any decisions or judgment calls that they have made for their children. I just can't seem to wrap my head around being able to do this for your children, the ones you love more than anything, and choosing not to do it.
I was once told by someone that their parents chose to not teach them Spanish while they were growing up because they wanted them to be able to "fit in" with their peers and not be seen as "different" from everyone else. This probably and most likely isn't true for everyone, but I'm sure there are some people who may even be reading this right now who can relate.
While I understand parents looking out for their children's well-being, I have to say that depriving them of something like becoming bilingual is not the way to do it.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not the best at being bilingual. I don't know a lot of the proper rules of the Spanish language and I definitely am not too great at writing in Spanish, even though reading it comes pretty easily.
As I was growing up, my parents made it a point to speak both English and Spanish around me (mainly because they were learning English throughout my childhood) and I was able to pick up on a lot more than I even realize sometimes. It's true that I probably wouldn't be able to survive longer than a single day in Mexico all on my own, but I can say I know enough to get by, which is more than some people.
Do I wish that I was more fluent in the language? Yes, all of the time. But am I grateful that I even know the amount that I currently know considering how many people I have met who don't even know half as much?
The bottom line is: being bilingual is a great advantage that not everyone has at their fingertips, and if you're a parent who can speak a foreign language, such as Spanish, fluently, I would only hope that you're able to see the great importance in passing it on to your children.
Because I can practically guarantee that nobody wants to hear "no sabo" when they ask someone something in Spanish, so please don't continue adding on to that.