Students capitalize on language skills

The use of the Spanish language has surged dramatically in the U.S. with a 233 percent increase in the number of Spanish speakers since 1980. As the Hispanic population has grown in the United States, the culture and language has affected many aspects of everyday life. Spanish classes have been added to the core curriculum in schools and more job opportunities have opened for bilingual students. It has been estimated that there will be between 39 million and 43 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. by the year 2020, according to a 2011 paper written by U.S. Census Bureau Demographers Jennifer Ortman and Hyon B. Shin (Mark Hugo Lopez and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera).

Students can use Spanish outside of class: in the workplace, with family, or to talk to heritage speakers. Junior Jade Poynter, Spanish 4 AP student, communicates rather well in Spanish at work and to talk with friends. According to Poynter, by practicing, she is learning to speak more quickly in Spanish and is able to keep the conversation going at a normal rate.

“I mostly use Spanish at my work because most of the cooks are Hispanic, and some servers are too. Spanish is a beautiful language and it’s really fun.” Poynter said.

Native speaker, junior Ashley Canelas-Orellana, speaks Spanish and English in her home and in her daily life.

“I speak both Spanish and English at home because my family also has a white ethnicity, and my father only understands some Spanish. Whenever it’s just us girls (Ashley, her mother, and her sisters), we speak mostly Spanish,” said Canelas-Orellana.

Switching back and forth between Spanish and English with her friends and family is a manual thing, according to Canelas-Orellana. When she talks to her family, she makes some mistakes, but her family understands what she says, according to Canelas-Orellana, but she has to remember that not all of her friends speak Spanish.

“With my friends, sometimes I do this thing where I get really angry and say everything in Spanish, but I quickly switch back to English because I know they don’t understand me. It’s just a natural thing. I know when I should and when I shouldn’t speak it,” Canelas-Orellana said.

Speaking more than one language has proven to benefit students. According to the American Council of Teaching Foreign Language’s website (, students who study a second language not only score higher on standardized tests, but have also shown to be able to think divergently and have better problem solving skills.

Junior Emma Arndt, Spanish IV AP student, has been studying Spanish since 6th grade and believes it has allowed her to process things faster in her head in both English and Spanish. Much like Poynter, Arndt’s knowledge of a foreign language also helps her in her workplace.

“The kitchen workers at my job are all Spanish speakers, and some know very little English.” Arndt said.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States and continues to increase, according to Pew Research Center. As of 2011, 37.6 million people in the United States speak spanish in their homes followed by Chinese with a mere 2.8 million. As the world in which we live changes, knowing more than one language helps to communicate better and provides opportunities to excel in today’s world.