Signs of the times – linguistically

Despite being a modest sort, I am forced to admit that I live in a tony, up-scale neighborhood. I found it interesting that one of the flyers left on my door advertising house cleaning services was written in both Spanish and English.

It is the first sign I’ve seen at such a personal level that Spanish is becoming, at least in parts of the Southwest here, a language equal to English in that all economic levels of society are liable to provide a home for either language. In the past, Spanish was used only in low-end businesses and governmental services.

I always told my students that 97% of people in this country speak English. So why is so much written in Spanish and why do so many phone menus start out with offering Spanish-language service? Because if you are advertising and selling to someone, you want to reach their heart and their first language is the one you want to talk to them in.

In doing some political campaigning, I did notice in some up-scale homes that Spanish was the household language. In the past, I think the assumption was that anyone who reached a fairly high economic level would pretty much have to be English-speaking, even in the home, sort of the “English is the key to success” notion. That’s still true to a large extent, I am sure, but I see a shift and this flyer might be evidence of it.

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