English on the Upswing Among Latinos

ThinkstockPhotos-79074000According to a new report out by the Pew Research Center, English proficiency has hit all-time highs among Latinos, while Spanish is spoken less and less in Latino homes. The report, “English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos: U.S. Born Driving Language Change,” by Jens Manuel Krogstad, Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez, examines language use trends since 1980 among U.S. Latino populations based on U.S. Census data and American Community Surveys.

The report states that 33.2 million Latinos speak English proficiently in the U.S., which is 68% of the Latino population ages 5 and over and up from 59% in 2000. The number of English-language households also jumped from 32% of Latino households in 1980 to 40% in 2013. These increases are a result of an increasing number of U.S.-born Latinos living in Spanish-speaking households.

The English proficiency of foreign-born Latinos has improved very little, with 34% achieving proficiency in English in 1980 up from 31% in 1980. Almost the same number spoke English only at home in 2013 (5%) as in 1980 (4%).

The researchers point out that despite increasing English proficiency among Latinos as a whole, 12.5 million Latinos self-reported that they spoke English less than “very well” in 2013, while 3.2 million reported that they spoke no English. These groups make up almost one-third of the whole Latino population in the U.S.

A closer look at demographics reveals that English-language proficiency is correlated with other factors, such as age and educational background. While 21% of the non-English speaking Latinos are senior citizens aged 65 and older, only 4% of English-language proficient Latinos are seniors. Education is an important factor, as three out of every four Latinos who do not speak any English have less than a high school education, while 4% of English-proficient Latinos have less than a high school education. Place of birth is perhaps the strongest determinate, as 93% of Latinos with no English are foreign-born.

Bilingualism also proved to be an important feature of the U.S. Latino community. Half of all Latinos self-reported that they are proficient in both English and Spanish. Bilingualism is also valued, with 95% saying that it is important for future generations of Latinos to know and be able to speak Spanish and 87% saying that immigrants must learn English to be successful in the U.S.


  1. Coming from a immigrant family, I have always wondered at the upset caused by the “flood” of immigrants as if it were something new and different. Has the immigration of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s been forgotten? My mother started school speaking only Czech. Her father (my grandfather) spoke and read German, Czech and English but told her she would learn English in school. She did, amazingly without ELL classes, because it was expected and she graduated 2 years early. She married outside the Czech community and spoke English at home with us only because my father did not speak any Czech. At family events, Czech swirled around us and we understood most of what was said but our community spoke English. I speak English fluently, and teach others to do it also. I do not use a foreign language often because I do not travel outside an English speaking community often though I can make myself understood in French and Spanish. I still retain much of the Czech culture though through cultural activities such as food, dance, and holiday celebrations. Why is there such surprise that the native born Hispanics are dropping the Spanish language? This has happened before and is part of becoming an American.

Comments are closed.