“Stay tuned as we continue to update whitehouse.gov” is the message Internet users get when trying to access www.whitehouse.gov/espanol since January 20th, when Trump administration decided to bring down the Spanish-language side of the White House website.The new government has posted just 2 tuits on its account on Twitter (Spanish version) @LaCasaBlanca and its Facebook (Spanish version) page doesn’t exist yet. Spokesman Sean Spicer suggested the translation option may return but made no specific commitment on timing. He spoke generally about the high volume of work facing the technology team during the changeover, but this move is consistent with President Trump’s criticism of the widespread use of Spanish in the United States, where there are 41 million native Spanish speakers.
The Spanish version of the White House page was created in the months following President Barack Obama’s swearing in 2009. Up until January 20th, this site also had a blog dedicated to issues considered of interest for the Hispanic community (the majority of the Spanish content can still be found at ObamaWhiteHouse.gov, a site with an archive of Obama-era materials and resources).
In the last few decades, Spanish has become unquestionably one of the most significant language in the United States. There are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US plus a further 11.6 million who are bilingual, mainly the children of Spanish-speaking immigrants. This puts the US ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million) and second only to Mexico (121 million).
By state the highest concentration is in the former Spanish colonies of the south and south-west, with New Mexico top at 47%, followed by California and Texas (both 38%) and Arizona (30%). Some 18% of New Yorkers speak Spanish while only 1.3% of West Virginians do. And more than 6% of Alaskans are Spanish speakers. US Census Office estimates that The United States will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, making it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on Earth, with Spanish the mother tongue of almost a third of its citizens.
Donald Trump is monolingual. At the beginning of the Republican primary, he admonished Jeb Bush for speaking in Spanish, the native tongue of his wife, Columba, a Mexican-American. “This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish,” Trump said. Barack Obama speaks some Indonesian and George W. Bush is conversational in Spanish. Bill Clinton understands German. The further back we go in time, the more polyglot our leaders become: Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke French and German. The list of United States presidents with knowledge of Greek and Latin is substantial. And then there’s Thomas Jefferson, who was fluent in Greek and Latin as well as Italian, French and Spanish.
Trump does’t seem to feel like learning Spanish, but if you do so, count on us to achieve it: ask for a free trial class and start learning a language that would let you talk to more than 500 million people in the world.
What do you think is the future of Spanish in the United States?
Image (The White House): Sara Moses by Freeimages.com