Spanish LanguageI was researching worldwide LMS implementations and hot spots and discovered the reason many countries do not choose an English-based LMS. Even though the learners have a choice of languages, the administrators need to understand and speak English. It is one of the primary reasons many non-English speaking countries, especially Spanish speaking, are developing their own LMS.

Is it time to start thinking about creating a Spanish version of a LMS for people who could use a system here in the U.S.?

The Demographics are Compelling

First, more and more of the companies and schools with whom I have spoken this past year, individually and at conferences and meetings, have told me they need one and need one now. I did some research and that brings us to the second point. The surprising facts:

Almost 400 million people worldwide speak Spanish. When you realize that about half of the population in the Western Hemisphere speaks Spanish, it becomes the primary language for as many people as English in this region of the world.

Within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English, by a very wide margin, and the Spanish-speaking population within the U.S. is growing as a percentage of the total U.S. population every year.

Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix was recently talking on NPR about how his city is about to become the first large city in America where Spanish will be the primary language spoken by more than 50% of the population.

The Numbers

The Census Bureau — in its first nationwide demographic tally from the 2010 headcount — said that the U.S. Hispanic population surged 43%, rising to 50.5 million in 2010 from 35.3 million in 2000. Latinos now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million. This figure means the United States has the fifth largest Hispanic population worldwide (trailing Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina – just barely behind Spain and Argentina).

  • Of this group of more than 50.5 million people, three out of four say that Spanish is their primary language.
  • Within the United States, more than 28 million people speak Spanish at some degree of fluency. A few states have a large percentage of these Spanish speakers – California has 6 million, Texas has 4 million, New York has 2 million, and Florida has 2 million.
  • In the U.S., the 28 million people who speak Spanish at home are well over half of the approximately 47 million people who speak a language other than English at home. That means that more people than all other languages combined within the U.S. speak Spanish.
  • Moreover, by 2050, the projected number of Hispanics in the U.S will to grow exponentially to over 100 million people. At that point, Hispanics will be about one quarter of the total U.S. population. That is over triple the 2000 figure in a 50-year span.
  • In the New York City area, the newscasts on the Spanish-language Noticias 41 and Noticiero Univision often have higher ratings than ‘the big three’ network news shows on CBS, NBC and ABC.
  • Approximately 5.8 percent of Internet users speak Spanish, making it the fourth most common language among the Internet community, trailing only English (about 50%), Japanese (about 8%), and German (about 6%).
  • A recent study of 25 metro markets in the U.S. found that Spanish-language programming was the sixth most popular format.

It is increasingly difficult to ignore the spread of Spanish in the United States. Bank ATMs offer instructions in Spanish. The Yellow Pages in many cities adds a Spanish-language insert. In addition, Spanish is working its way into everyday use. Is there an American left who cannot order fajitas with spicy jalapeños using the proper Spanish-accented flair? We are becoming a bilingual nation.

Over the past decade, the worldwide demand for courses in Spanish has just about doubled, and the demand is almost as close in the U.S.

According to Paula Winke and Cathy Stafford of The Center for Applied Linguistics, rapid demographic changes and an increasing recognition of the critical need for professionals who are proficient in languages other than English (Brecht & Rivers, 2000; Carreira & Armengol, 2001) have led to an interest in developing language programs and classes for “heritage language learners.” These are students who are raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken and who speak or at least understand that language (Valdés, 2001).

The fastest growing heritage language population in the United States is Hispanic Americans (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010), and the number of Spanish speakers studying Spanish is on the rise. As a result, language educators are developing programs, classes, and instructional strategies to address the needs of these students, which are different from those of native-English-speaking students studying Spanish as a foreign language.

Appropriate instructional materials and educational technology are essential for these classes, referred to as Spanish for Spanish speakers (SNS) classes. Although the development of SNS materials has a 30-year history, and many new SNS textbooks and materials continue to appear, developing a well-articulated, managed and tracked sequence for SNS instruction continues to be a challenge (Peyton, Lewelling, & Winke, 2001).

So is anyone listening? Or should I say ¿Hay alguna que escuchando? Here is a tremendous opportunity for this large group to learn new career skills using their native Spanish language and have their courses contained in a Spanish version of a LMS. It is an opportunity whose time might have come.

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