Thursday, May 29, 2008

In Miami, Spanish is becoming the primary language

MIAMI (AP) - Melissa Green's mother spoke Spanish, but she never learned - her father forbid it. Today, that's a frequent problem in this city where the English-speaking population is outnumbered.

The 49-year-old flower shop owner and Miami native said her inability to speak "espanol" makes it difficult to conduct business, seek help at stores and even ask directions. She finds it "frustrating."

"It makes it hard for some people to find a job because they don't speak Spanish, and I don't think that it is right," said Green, who sometimes calls a Spanish-speaking friend to translate for customers who don't speak English.

"Sometimes I think they should learn it," she said.

In many areas of Miami, Spanish has become the predominant language, replacing English in everyday life. Anyone from Latin America could feel at home on the streets, without having to pronounce a single word in English.

In stores, shopkeepers wait on their clients in Spanish. Universities offer programs for Spanish speakers. And in supermarkets, banks, restaurants - even at the post office and government offices - information is given and assistance is offered in Spanish. In Miami, doctors and nurses speak Spanish with their patients and a large portion of advertising is in Spanish. Daily newspapers and radio and television stations cater to the Hispanic public.

But this situation, so pleasing to Latin American immigrants, makes some English speakers feel marginalized. In the 1950s, it's estimated that more than 80 percent of Miami-Dade County residents were non-Hispanic whites. But in 2006, the Census Bureau estimates that number was only 18.5 percent, and in 2015 it is forecast to be 14 percent. Hispanics now make up about 60 percent.

"The Anglo population is leaving," said Juan Clark, a sociology professor at Miami Dade College. "One of the reactions is to emigrate toward the north. They resent the fact that (an American) has to learn Spanish in order to have advantages to work. If one doesn't speak Spanish, it's a disadvantage."

According to the Census, 58.5 percent of the county's 2.4 million residents speak Spanish - and half of those say they don't speak English well. English-only speakers make up 27.2 percent of the county's residents.

Full article here

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