The US is increasingly a bilingual country. With 37m native Spanish speakers, up 233% since 1980, when there were 11 million Spanish speakers (pewresearch.org), more attention is being paid to which candidates can debate in Spanish, and which of them are translating their websites into Spanish to reach out to Hispanic voters.
Of 6 confirmed candidates so far only 1 is fluent in Spanish; Marco Rubio of Florida, but Jeb Bush who looks likely to stand is also fluent. Jeb Bush taught English in Mexico as a student, where he met his wife Columba, and has a degree in Latin American Studies. Another potential Republican candidate Ted Cruz, who is of Cuban descent, admits his Spanish is “lousy”
Rick Santorum, despite his Puerto Rican ancestry, has angered his homeland by saying that if Puerto Rico wants to become a US State, then English must be the main language. He does not speak Spanish himself. Interestingly, Jeb Bush has taken the opposing view – in a recent visit to Puerto Rico he delivered a speech – in Spanish – supporting Puerto Rican statehood.
None of the declared Democratic candidates so far speak Spanish. Jim Webb of the Democrats gets an honorary mention for speaking Vietnamese – numbers of Vietnamese speakers have grown by 599% since 1980 – but they have no declared Spanish-speakers yet.
A quién le importa? Who cares?
Well, as in all areas of life, making an effort to communicate with people you’d like to persuade or impress in their own language is important. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley who is a potential Democrat candidate is well-respected by the Hispanic community for his willingness to engage with the Spanish-language media. Having studied the language at High School, his enthusiasm apparently makes up for any linguistic inaccuracies.
Hillary Clinton has been criticised in the past for rather poor efforts to speak Spanish herself, and so far in this race has been content to translate her website into Spanish and have some Hispanic voters speak on her launch video. Whether she’ll have to do more to compete with Rubio or Jeb Bush remains to be seen.
Be like Martin O’Malley – don’t be worried about making errors – get out there and engage with your audiences in their own language – talk to us on 0161 491 1444 about learning a language or improving your language skills!