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Number of Spanish speaking Latinos drops

By: Ruben Veloz, Linguistic Professor Jon Amastae, CNN

There is an interesting trend happening in the borderland and across the country, a new study shows the number of Spanish speakers in the United states is dropping, even as the Hispanic population continues to grow.

According to a Pew research, the study says more Hispanic children born in the Unites States are growing up without learning how to speak Spanish.

University of Texas at El Paso linguistics professor Jon Amastae said it's because of a process called "language shift" which has been happening for more than 200 years.

"Even though we have seen a recent rise in the number of people who identify themselves as Hispanic," said Amastae, "as their families settle in to the U.S. they show a tendency to use less Spanish and more English."

It's predicted that the Hispanic population in the U.S. will grow from 37 million to 40 million by 2020, but the study finds the number of Hispanics who will be able to speak Spanish will drop from 75 to 66 percent.

Amastae tells KFOX14 that could lead to some problems for border cities like El Paso, where knowing Spanish is crucial for doing business with Mexico and the local economy.

"The overwhelming presence of Spanish, and the number of people who speak either both languages or only Spanish makes it imperative to view Spanish for business or commerce or social services often in education as well," said Amastae.

The study says one reason for the drop is because more immigrant parents are refusing to teach their children Spanish for fear of retaliation.

However, professor Amastae believes it may have more to do with the growing trend of Hispanics who are born in the U.S. and are identifying themselves as Americans rather than Latinos.

"Every time I go to Dallas or Houston I am impressed with the rise in the Hispanic population there, but it's also happening in small towns in Texas, that for many years didn't have a great Hispanic population," said Amastae.

The state with fastest growing Latino population isn't Texas or New Mexico, but North Carolina.

According to census data, the Hispanic population has grown 394%, from 76,726 in 1990 to 378,963 people in 2000.



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