The survey published by the U.S. Modern Language Association (MLA) shows that despite the anti-immigrant movement of recent years and the increase in the number of university students who enroll in Arabic, Chinese and Korean courses, Spanish remains by far the most studied language in universities.
Spanish is still the No. 1 foreign language. Nearly 50% of university enrollment for foreign language courses focuses on Spanish lessons.
About 850,000 students are enrolled in Spanish courses, followed by 210,000 in French, 198,000 in German, 74,000 in Japanese and 61,000 in Chinese.
Everything indicates that this trend will continue, for reasons that go beyond the existence of a huge U.S. Hispanic population. Students of all ethnic groups choose Spanish as a language because it opens up employment opportunities. Furthermore, in a time of budget cuts it is more likely that universities remove language courses with less assistance, but preserve the Spanish language.
In the U.S., about 34 million people speak Spanish, including 3.5 million who are Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau. That makes the United States the major Spanish-speaking country of the world.
But will the trend continue? Will new generations keep using their language in times when several states are considering anti-immigration measures and when the financial crisis is slowing the flow of Latin American immigration?
There is reason to think so. A nationwide survey conducted by Bendixen and Amandi, a public research firm, reveals that 89% of young foreign-born and 59% U.S.-born Hispanics speak English and Spanish.
It is a new phenomenon. Unlike what happened decades ago when parents would ask their children not to speak Spanish because they believed that they would progress more if they only spoke English, now Mexican immigrants want their children to be bilingual.
Besides bilingualism is now considered an advantage for employment. Also, technology keeps the immigrants and their children closer to their home countries. Technology has been a key factor; thanks to the Internet the U.S. is becoming more of a multi-ethnic society.
Hispanics already constitute the largest minority in the United States, and the technology will help the Spanish force in the country grow in the near future.