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By Cristina Benitez

Spanish Language
Use of the Spanish language is changing within the Latino community. With the continued growth of the Hispanic population, we are hearing Spanish on the streets of every major city in the United States. Today’s immigrants speak Spanish because they have a stronger base of Spanish to fall back on due to the growth of Hispanic media, large Hispanic population centers and the acceptance of the Latino culture. But what we are also seeing is an increase in the use of English, plus the use of bilingual communication and Spanglish. Why is this and how do we as marketers to the Hispanic community incorporate this into our messages?

Increase in English
Recent studies show an increase in the percentage of English spoken at home. Multi-generational families living under one roof account for this increase because the younger generation grows up speaking English yet hearing Spanish from parents and grandparents. The debates involving bilingual education in the United States have pointed to the importance given to English by immigrant parents. It is through learning the new language that Hispanics are able to improve their socioeconomic status in the US. Being fluent in English is a ticket to professional growth.

Bilingual Usage
Most notably, we see an increase in bilingual communication in the media with the growth of publications such as Latina. Targeted to Hispanic women, Latina’s hip use of Spanglish and the bilingual treatment of all its major stories reaches the bilingual and bicultural female. Growing Hispanic cable networks, such a Galavison and its show Sí TV, have programs with Latino themes that appeal to the growing number of English-speaking and bilingual Latino viewers. Sí TV's programming goes far beyond the language-only issue. It recognizes the cultural differences between U.S. Latinos and . . . Latinos in Mexico and South America,"

Spanglish is a hybrid or combination of English and Spanish within the same thought. Used mostly by first and second generation Latinos or Latino youth, it is accomplished in various ways. Borrowing words from English and "Spanishizing" them makes new words by pronouncing an English word "Spanish style''. Sometimes, an English word is borrowed for reasons of efficiency, since Spanish is famously multisyllabic. Swiftly advancing technology has added the verbs "bipiar'' (from the noun "beeper'') and "i-meiliar'' ("to e-mail''). Code Switching is beginning a sentence in one language and finishing it in another as in, "Party Pelo…Hairdos for the fiesta".

What do you use?
As always, it depends upon your product/service, which target you are selecting and your brand character. In most advertising we see the use of "universal Spanish" which is understood by the Hispanic population as a whole. There is no easy answer, but it is more common today and a bit trendier to see a blending of the two languages as long as the boundaries of respect are not violated. Examine your strategies carefully and select the best communication for your message.