- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

From ATMs to menus to football to politics, the Spanish language is creeping into American culture.
Patrons at bank machines in the Washington metropolitan area are routinely asked whether they want to conduct business in English or Spanish, which is not surprising, given that Hispanics represent nearly 8 percent of the District's population and nearly 5 percent of the populations of both Virginia and Maryland.
But it might surprise people to find out that the majority of the 300,000 ATMs nationwide are multilingual.
"About 90 percent offer Spanish and English. But in the future, they will be offering other languages as well," said Les Riedl, senior vice president of Speer & Associates, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that focuses primarily on financial services.
Many Americans who call credit-card companies to learn their balances find a similar situation. They're often told to press 1 for instructions in English and 2 for instructions in Spanish.
Nationally, the Hispanic population rose 58 percent between 1990 and 2000, and Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation's largest minority group, according to the 2000 Census.
Census 2000 data for 13 states, released last week, indicated that more U.S. residents are speaking Spanish at home. Those data also showed that waves of Hispanics are moving into other states besides New Mexico, California, Texas, Florida, New York, Colorado and Nevada, where their numbers have always been greatest.
For instance, the average American might not think many customers at a Wells Fargo bank in Butte, Mont., would opt for the Spanish instructions on an ATM. All of Montana has only 18,000 Hispanics about 2 percent of the state's population.
The average American might also be surprised to learn that a Spanish-language broadcast television network, the Los Angeles-based Univision, is the nation's fifth-largest, following NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox. It's one of three Spanish-language broadcast networks in the nation.
"On any given night, Univision has a 75 percent share of the Hispanic viewing audience. Univision reaches 97 percent of U.S. Hispanics," said a company spokeswoman.
She called the Hispanic market one for which "publishers and advertisers" are vying because it's young, isolated and still untapped. "Hispanics haven't assimilated the same way as other populations one in six persons under age 35 currently living in this country is Hispanic," she said.
The fast-growing Latino population in this country has caused some American restaurants to provide Spanish-language menus.
The fast-food chain Burger King is doing that in areas with heavy concentrations of Hispanics. In the Washington area, the Burger Kings in Adelphi, near Langley Park, and in Adams-Morgan in the District offer menus in Spanish.
The National Football League is also reaching out to Hispanics. Data from Nielsen Media Research showed that ABC's "Monday Night Football" was the second most-watched show in Hispanic homes last year. Their favorite show was "The Simpsons."
In a report in this month's issue of an NFL newsletter, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue pointed out that nine NFL teams Arizona, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets already broadcast their games in Spanish on the radio.
He noted that the NFL "recently formed an internal task force of league and club executives to analyze our activities, work with leaders of the Hispanic-American community and recommend a comprehensive approach toward the future" for reaching out to this population.
What's more, starting today the Republican National Committee eager to capture some of the Hispanic vote will begin airing a 30-minute Spanish-language television news show in Las Vegas. Other sites selected for the broadcast of the news magazine, called "Abriendo Caminos" (Forging New Paths), are Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Fresno, Calif.; Miami and Orlando, Fla. The project will cost $1 million.
"We're determined to fight for the Hispanic vote," said Sharon Castillo, an RNC spokeswoman who is also anchor of "Abriendo Caminos."
She cited an internal poll showing that 75 percent of Hispanics believe political parties and candidates should talk to them in Spanish, not English. Another finding was that Hispanics view preservation of their native language to be one of the five most important issues in their lives.
But Enos Schera, a Miami man who is vice president of a group called Citizens of Dade United, is disturbed by the proliferation of Spanish speakers in his area.
In addition to a Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald, he said, "There are 14 radio stations that broadcast in Spanish as well as two broadcast television networks and 20 cable stations."
Groups such as English First and U.S. English, which support governments that elect to make English their official language, are incensed when taxpayer dollars are used to promote bilingualism.
Both groups are angry about a case they learned of from Mr. Schera, in which 16-year-old Zita Wilensky was fired by Florida's Miami-Dade County for failing to learn Spanish in 60 days.
"Instead of requiring government workers to be fluent in every possible language, we could encourage people to take English classes. But the politically correct crowd won't be satisfied until the Washington Monument is replaced with the Tower of Babel," said Jim Boulet Jr., executive director of English First.


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