Language and ethnic identity ‘big part’ in students lives

Lizandra Portal /Staff Writer

Miami-Dade is one of the biggest Hispanic-majority county in the U.S., where 66 percent of the 2.7 million population is Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center.

At FIU, 61 percent of its 54,000 students are Hispanic, according to the University’s About Us page. But for most Hispanic millennials born in the U.S., language is a big issue.

Brian Perez, a senior marketing major who was born in the U.S. to Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, identifies more with his Hispanic ethnicity despite not speaking Spanish.

“Growing up, it [not speaking Spanish] didn’t affect me too much because everyone in my family spoke English, even my grandparents,” Perez said. “It affected me more when it came to relationships with my best friends’ parents… I couldn’t communicate with them because I don’t know how to [speak Spanish], so it frustrates me that I can’t have that relationship with them.”  

Despite having learned Spanish as her first language, freshman Jennifer Olivera, who was born in the U.S. to Cuban parents and identifies as Cuban-American, feels she has become more Americanized.

“I feel comfortable speaking both [English and Spanish],” Olivera said. “If someone is uncomfortable and they don’t know how to speak English, then I’ll speak to them in Spanish, but I prefer English.”  

Because Miami is a city full of Hispanics, Spanish has become the dominant language, making it difficult for those who do not speak the language to find employment in the city, with even entry-level positions listing Spanish as a skill set.

“I think it’s a little frustrating that… this is still a city of the United States and the majority of the people don’t even speak English and then they look at you crazy when you don’t speak Spanish,” Perez said. “So, it puts someone like me who doesn’t speak Spanish too well at a disadvantage.”

Other non-Spanish speakers who live in Miami such as Haitian-Americans are also at a disadvantage when it comes to jobs.

“I think it’s beneficial to learn a different language,” said Jamie Adelson, a senior broadcast journalism major who was born in the U.S. to Haitian parents. “[But] I don’t really think it’s fair for people who move to Miami… to sort of be forced or feel the pressure to learn Spanish just to accommodate people.”

However, Adelson does see the advantage there is in having such a large population of Spanish-speakers.

“It has really pushed people to be more open to learn different languages,” Adelson said. “I really like how in some schools they’re learning Chinese and Mandarin, as well as Spanish and Creole and French.”

As far as the future of language in Miami, Perez believes that it will depend on who is running immigration.

“If you have someone in office who is really pushing against immigration, there could be a chance that English could go back to being predominant,” Perez said. “But I highly doubt it because Miami is already labeled as the hub for Latin America… I think Spanish is always going to be here.”

Olivera, however, sees the future of language in Miami expanding.

“With migrants, you’ll always have different types of languages introduced,” Olivera said. “It depends on what type of migrants come that maybe English and Spanish are still here, [though] there might be another language. I don’t think English is going to be the only thing spoken in Florida.”

Be the first to comment on "Language and ethnic identity ‘big part’ in students lives"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.