Growing Up Speaking Only English, Young Latinos Making Effort To Learn Spanish

Young Latinos are retaining, or learning, Spanish more than ever before, according to a new study.

Young Latinos are retaining, or learning, Spanish more than ever before, according to a new study.  (2004 Getty Images)

Like many states not normally thought of as Latino hubs, Oregon is now home to a growing Hispanic community – at least a half million.

But what is intriguing about the state’s Latinos, a new report found, is that young people are retaining Spanish at a markedly higher rate than earlier waves of Latinos. Many also are learning it, according to research at Oregon State University.

OSU professor, Susana Rivera-Mills, is quoted in, the website of Northwest Public Radio, as saying that a growing Latino population in Oregon has helped remove the stigma once attached to speaking a foreign language.

“What we’re seeing is a demographic explosion,” she is quoted as saying. “As communities grow and as more Hispanics begin to become active participants in that community, these younger generations are realizing that there is an identity piece that they never fully understood, that they’re missing and that they long to connect to again.”

What is happening is Oregon is not new. Many west coast Latinos, particularly Mexicans who experienced discrimination decades ago, deliberately did not teach their children Spanish so they wouldn’t encounter the same treatment.

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Now, those same children are trying to learn Spanish as adults.

And a key part of learning the language is to try and connect to their heritage, Rivera-Mills said, adding that there is a practical side to learning Spanish, as well.

“These folks are realizing that it can get them better jobs and is actually a marketable skill.”

The new mindset is a departure from the long-time tendency of Latino parents, because of trhe discrimination they faced, to downplay in the home the importance of mastering Spanish, Rivera-Mills said.

“Older generations experienced much prejudice, particularly going to school,” she said, according to Northwest Public Radio. “We have research and studies that show corporal punishment was used in elementary schools to deter students from speaking their native Spanish language.”

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