“They Don’t Want To Learn English,” New Media Survey Explores the Myth that Young Latinos Resist Learning English

Latinos Reinforce Their Immersion in American Popular Culture

May 10, 2007
Via New American Dimensions

“They don’t want to learn English” is a favored refrain among today’s anti-immigrant forces seeking to curb new immigration into this country.  In an increasingly intense national debate focused on undocumented workers and the porous U.S.-Mexico border, the heated rhetoric emanating from anti-immigrant activists has largely assumed a distinctly Hispanic orientation.  If the anti-immigrationists are to be believed, Hispanics as a group resist assimilation and the American way of life, unlike previous ethnic immigrant generations.  But contrary to these beliefs, a new survey jointly conducted by the New Generation Latino Consortium (NGLC) and New American Dimensions (NAD) demonstrates that today’s generation of young Latinos embrace American culture and its idioms like never before.

“Many in the anti-immigration movement incorrectly characterize all Hispanics as rejecters of English who resist the impulse to become American,” notes David Morse, President and CEO of NAD.  “It’s simply not true.  Our study shows that young, U.S.-born Hispanics are submerging themselves into American culture wholesale.  Although they may participate in the popular culture of two different languages, there is a clear preference for English—and ‘Spanglish.’” 

The study, entitled “New Generation Latino Media Habits,” measures the attitudes and behavior of young Hispanic respondents regarding media, language, and popular culture.  The study is based on a national survey of 766 respondents between the ages of 14 to 34 years and was fielded with a twenty-five question online survey.  Approximately four-fifths of the final respondent pool consisted of those born in the U.S.  The study includes these findings:

•    Young Latinos are either fully bilingual or prefer English.  37% indicate they mostly speak English overall, while 55% say they speak both English and Spanish equally.  Only 7% identify Spanish as the language they speak the most.  Furthermore, while respondents were given a choice of taking the survey in either English or Spanish, all participants elected to complete the questionnaire in English.

•    In terms of television media consumption, English-language TV and cable networks edged out Spanish-language television more than two to one as the most often watched.  40% watch broadcast networks and 34% watch cable networks the most often, while only 15% of young Latinos say they watch Spanish-language TV most often.  Fox was cited as the favorite broadcast network among respondents (48%), followed closely by ABC (43%) and NBC (41%).  MTV was identified as the favorite cable TV network (33%). 

•    The most popular English-language TV programs cited by young Latinos include “The Simpsons”, “That 70’s Show”, “Gray’s Anatomy”, “CSI”, “Family Guy”, “Lost”, and “Friends”, while the “George Lopez Show” is identified as the top “Latino-focused” TV program ahead of Spanish-language programs “Sabado Gigante” and “La Fea Más Bella.”

•    Among networks focusing on Latino youth, Mun2 is the most popular, followed closely by MTV en Español and Sí TV.  According to survey results, Mun2 leads among Latino-focused networks as the most watched by young Latinos at 29%—trailed closely by both MTV en Español (28%) and Sí TV (25%).  Young Latino teens between the ages of 13 to 17 years are driving Latino-focused networks viewership.

•    Mainstream American celebrities and movies occupy the top positions in the minds of young Latinos when it comes to entertainment.  According to the survey, the top three favorite actors among young Latinos are all prominent mainstream American talent—Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino.  Likewise, the top viewed movies among young Latinos over the past six months include U.S. box-office blockbusters “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” (13%), “Superman Returns” (10%), “X-Men 3” (7%).   

•    There is a clear preference for English when it comes to print and electronic media.  All the top magazine and newspaper titles identified by respondents are English-language publications.  For electronic media, 7 in 10 prefer the internet in English, while nearly 8 in 10 prefer their video game content in English.  Moreover, the online medium ranks the highest in terms of the amount of time spent for all media—63% spend more than 4 hours a day online vs. 50% for TV and 45% for radio.

“This study reinforces a growing body of research supporting the fact that Latinos are far from culturally inert,” affirms David Chitel, Chairman and Founder of NGLC.  “Among the majority of 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos we classify as ‘New Generation,’ rather than resisting U.S. media and language, they unequivocally embrace it.  But they also do so by exhibiting their own unique cultural imprint, experiences, and identities.  These attitudes and behaviors confound the myth that a majority of Latinos’ media consumption habits are defined by a single language preference.”

The complete results of the study can be obtained by e-mailing NGLC Chairman & Founder, David Chitel, at info@nglc.net or via phone at 212-967-8267 ext. 19.

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