Lost in translation: Latinos and the bilingual divide

What’s best for Latino students who struggle with English? Should they be taught through bilingual education or are English-only programs the way to go? The answer for a school district in Charlotte, N.C., seems to be a strong combination of both.

At the Collinswood Language Academy (kindergarten through sixth grade) students spend half their day learning subjects like math and science in Spanish and the other half being taught history and social studies in English. The program has been around for a decade and in Charlotte, home to a huge influx of Latinos, it is in great demand.

Experts with opposing views will point you to separate research and data that argue whether English-only or bilingual education is the way to go. Although they may never agree, what’s clear is that Latino students continue to struggle to even graduate from high school. And while educators continue the debate over English only, Latino numbers in higher education remain dismal.

From NBC correspondent Miguel Almaguer

Source: http://allday.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/06/17/1968748.aspx

White House Preparing To Launch Web Site In Spanish

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The White House is preparing to launch a Spanish-language version of its Web site, Whitehouse.gov, by the end of the year, according to the company doing its recruiting.

Earlier this week, Rock Creek Strategic Marketing sent out four job postings that, when filled, will expand the first White House Office of New Media by almost 50%. In addition to a video editor, Web writer and designer, the White House is looking for a Spanish-language writer and producer, according to the ads.

“They’re hoping that by the end of the year – if not sooner – they can have a Spanish-language version of Whitehouse.gov launched,” said Scott Johnson, co-owner of Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, a Washington-area communications firm.

The White House authorized his company to begin gathering candidates to help expand the new-media office from its current size of roughly 10 employees, he said.

“These people for the most part have been on the campaign trail with Obama for up to two years,” Johnson said. “They eat poorly and sleep intermittently. These guys are not just in there punching the clock – they are passionate about what they’re doing.”

Would-be hires should be prepared, the ad warns: “Long work hours and short deadlines will be the norm.”

The White House hasn’t made an official announcement about a Spanish-language edition of the White House Web site. Currently, the site has only biographies of the president, vice-president and their wives translated into Spanish.

“The president and the administration use new Web-based tools to keep the public updated on important issues, promote transparency, and provide opportunities for meaningful engagement,” an administration official said. “We are constantly looking at ways we can strengthen and expand the White House’s online program.”

In late February, Obama appointed Macon Phillips as his director of new media. Previously Phillips supervised online communications during the transition and developed Change.gov, according to a White House statement.

Appointed at the same time, Deputy New Media Director Cammie Croft also worked in both the transition and campaign, where she managed the Web sites FighttheSmears.com and UndertheRadar.com. And the White House recently borrowed Bev Godwin, now director of online resources, from the U.S. General Services Administration, where she runs the Web site USA.gov.

“Did you know your government may be cooler and more approachable than you think?” Godwin wrote May 21 on the White House’s blog, The Briefing Room. “It really is. I know. I work here.”

-By Kristina Peterson, Dow Jones Newswires

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090611-715461.html

Credit union staff learning to speak Spanish

In the basement below United Educational Credit Union’s lobby on Riverside Drive, nine employees commit to memory the phrases, “This is a deposit slip,” and, “How can I help you?” in Spanish.

Some of its credit union tellers, asset managers and maintenance staff were learning a few banking-related phrases to help bridge language and cultural barriers for potential clients who do not speak English fluently.

“It won’t be perfect, but we are definitely making an effort,” said Joan Miller, an executive assistant who presented the 2009 marketing plan to her employers. “We think it will be a mutual benefit to both.”

Most Spanish-speaking residents in Battle Creek are from Mexico, where personal banking is not as common or accessible as it is in the United States, said Yolanda Campos, who is leading the eight-week language course.

Instead of opening a savings account where their money can earn interest, many people chose to carry their money with them or keep it at home. They tend to turn to predatory lenders offering high-interest-rate loans and check service centers that charge exorbitant fees, said Kate Kennedy, Latino/Hispanic Community Project director.

“They are very unbanked for the most part and use a cash economy,” Kennedy said. “They’ll pay $30,000 down for a house — in cash.”

About five or six years ago, local banks started to realize the potential for new business in the Mexican-American community and began hiring bilingual staff who could help people apply for tax identification numbers. The nine-digit number acts like a social security number for non-citizens who want to open a savings account, Kennedy explained.

“Still a lot of people are tending to use cash,” she said.

Kennedy said United Educational has done more than any other credit union in Battle Creek to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community. It is promoting a bilingual staff member, Elizabeth Hurtado, from part-time to full-time and it is planning to hire another part-time, bilingual staff member as well, Miller said.

“Quite honestly that’s what’s going to attract people,” said Kennedy, who has worked with Hurtado on the Latino/Hispanic Community Project. “They’ll seek Elizabeth out.”

But often the first contact potential clients have is with a teller, so it is prudent that the member services representative at least know how to say in Spanish, “Wait, I’ll get a translator.”

The students joke that after six classes the only phrases they know by heart are “nada” and “no comprendo,” but they say learning about Mexican culture has proven to be an enlightening experience. They won’t make the mistake of forming an “OK” symbol with their thumb and forefinger touching with fingers extended, they said, because they learned that the gesture can be offensive.

They also have learned that the husband typically handles finances for the family. They have become familiar with geographic names of states in Mexico and their proper pronunciation.

“You’re eventually going to see people from all of these states,” Campos told the class.

They certainly hope so.

Source: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20090604/NEWS01/906040320/1002/NEWS01/Credit+union+staff+learning+to+speak+Spanish

Study: Latinos now account for one in five American children

Latinos now account for about one in five American children – up from one in 10 three decades ago – thanks largely to a huge influx of Mexican and Central American immigrants that began in 1980, a study released Thursday found.

The American-born children of parents who arrived since the 1980s now make up a majority of Latino youngsters in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.

This second generation of American-born children of at least one Latino immigrant parent now constitute 52 percent of the nation’s 16 million Hispanic children, the study found.

Many of those children are also well integrated into the mainstream of American society – assimilating to various degrees depending on how long their parents have lived in the United States. For example, third-generation Latino children are more likely to avoid poverty, but live in single-parent homes, than first generation Latino children.

Families like that of Carlos and Ann Alcaraz of Van Nuys, whose home in a tree-lined neighborhood has nurtured their two daughters and son in the American Dream, are a microcosm of the new report.

“My older sister, Marisa, just got her master’s degree from the University of Southern California, and I’ve been accepted at the University of California, Irvine,” says 18-year-old Christina Alcaraz, who is about to graduate from Cleveland High School.

“You can’t get much more middle-class American than that.”

The new report found a profound change in today’s population of Latino children from those of 1980, before the historic immigration wave from Mexico, Central America and South America.

Like many of today’s Latino youth, one of the Alcaraz’s parents is American-born – their mother – and their father was born abroad.

“My father came here from Tijuana and made a good life for himself and his family,” says Christina Alcaraz.

Sociologists and demographers say families like the Alcarazes show the fundamental change occurring in America.

“They are the future,” said Jorge Garcia, a Chicano Studies professor at California State University, Northridge.

“Historically, it’s the second generation that assimilates and becomes American.”

The new Pew Center study, called “Latino Children: A Majority are U.S.-Born Offspring of Immigrants,” underscores the impact of the immigration boom that began around 1980.

In that year, only three in 10 Latino children were second-generation, or born in the U.S. to at least one immigrant parent. That same year, six in 10 Latino children were in the third generation or higher, meaning their parents or grandparents were born in the United States.

Today, according to the study, those figures are almost reversed. While just over half of Latino children are second-generation, some 37 percent are third-generation or higher.

Latinos now make up more than one out of five children in the United States and, as their numbers have grown, their demographic profile has changed, according to the report.

Pew researchers say the shift in the generational status of Latino children is important because analysis of the most recent U.S. census data indicates that many social, economic and demographic characteristics of Latino children vary sharply by their generational status.

Various indicators of the socioeconomic status of Latino children of U.S.-born parents are higher than for Latino children of immigrant parents.

For instance, third-generation Latino children have better-educated parents than their second- and first-generation peers and were more likely to live in households with annual incomes of at least $75,000.

“Some of these children’s families have been in the country for many generations,” the report said. “In fact, persons of Hispanic descent resided in the United States before the American Revolution.”

But among first-generation Latino children, 43 percent are not fluent in English, compared with one in five second-generation Hispanic children and 5 percent of third-generation children.

“English ability matters because it is highly related to educational test score performance and high school completion,” the study said.

First-generation Latino children were more likely to live in poverty.

But the report said health-based and other indicators suggest Latino children in immigrant families fare better in some dimensions.

For instance, almost seven in 10 first-generation Latino children live in married-couple families, just below the figure for second-generation children. But only slightly more than half of third-generation and higher children live in a married couple household.

The report also concluded that the number of Latino children who are “second generation” may soon peak, though the percentage of Hispanics born in the U.S. with at least one immigrant parent is still on the rise.

“Demographic projections,” the report said, “suggest that among the entire Hispanic population, the second-generation will not peak until at least 2050.”

By Tony Castro

Source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_12473828

MasterCard Preps Hispanic Push

PURCHASE, N.Y. MasterCard is launching a Hispanic marketing and education initiative promoting the use of its debit and pre-paid products. While the Hispanic population and its buying power has been rapidly on the rise, the segment is still a relatively untapped market for the card issuer, as Hispanics tend to prefer using cash and checks to plastic.

“Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., representing about 15 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census,” said Chris Jogis, svp, U.S. consumer marketing at MasterCard. “But they’re much more used to cash, and in this campaign we are showing and educating them about the benefits of electronic payments.”

The MasterCard pitch includes a new 30-second Spanish-language “Priceless” commercial, “Quebradita,” which focuses on how consumers can better manage money through the use of debit and prepaid cards. (This is also the first time MasterCard has advertised prepaid cards on TV.) Two dancers are performing the Quebradita — translated as “little break” — an acrobatic Latin-American dance style known by its Western clothing, hat tricks and flips. As they dance, their cash flies everywhere, causing audience members to duck. The spot illustrates the message that prepaid is an easy and secure way to pay, rather than fumbling with cash. Spending support behind the campaign was not disclosed.

McCann Erickson, New York, handled creative development.

The commercial will be shown in 11 key U.S. Hispanic markets in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, New York and Illinois. In addition to TV, MasterCard is using Spanish-language radio ads, as well as out-of-home and online advertising.

“As we look to continue to bring value to Hispanic consumers, it is important for MasterCard to be speaking in their language in channels that are relevant to them,” said Jogis, who added that MasterCard has used targeted-Hispanic advertising since 2000.

MasterCard is augmenting its mass-media push with a community approach that promotes financial literacy at a grass-roots level, taking the effort into cash-driven businesses like check-cashing centers and laundromats.

MasterCard is also working in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, sponsor of the Hispanic Heritage Awards and Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards, and Spanish-language media company Univision, which will draw upon its on-air talent to create a financial education series.

During this difficult economic environment, Jogis said MasterCard’s broader underlying marketing emphasis in the “Priceless” campaign is “outsmarting the times.”

He added: “Value doesn’t just mean saving money; it means the convenience you get through electronic payments.”

Source:  http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/client/e3i7ee3d207fbb1fda3969c5c7c3cbfe874

Pharmacies Agree to Provide Prescription Data in Many Languages

In a deal that underscores the challenges and obligations of doing business in polyglot New York State, five major chains that sell prescription drugs have agreed to provide customers with information about them in the customers’ primary languages, the office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

The agreements stem from a lengthy investigation by Mr. Cuomo’s office that found that pharmacies across the state, in violation of the law and at great risk to customers, routinely failed to provide information about medication in a language their immigrant customers could understand, officials said.

“The need to understand prescription information can literally be a matter of life and death,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. For those New Yorkers who do not speak English as a first language, he said, “this agreement will ensure they have the medical information needed to protect their health and well-being and that of their families.”

State law requires that pharmacists personally provide to patients spoken and written information about the dosage, purpose and side effects of prescription drugs, officials said. The law also prohibits pharmacies from discriminating against non-English speakers.

Complying with the law has become an increasing challenge for pharmacies in a state where the foreign-born population has grown to 4.1 million, or 21.3 percent of the total population in 2007, up from 3.8 million in 2000, or about 20.1 percent of the total population then.

According to census data, about 3 in 10 residents of New York State, and about half of the residents of New York City, speak a language other than English at home. There are an estimated 170 languages spoken in the state.

The agreement announced Tuesday involves Wal-Mart; Target; A.&P., which operates Pathmark, Super Fresh, and Food Emporium among other stores; Costco; and Duane Reade, the largest pharmacy chain in New York City.

Under the agreement, the retailers will equip their dispensaries with telephones that will connect customers with off-site interpreters working for language-service contractors. Some stores plan to provide dual handsets to allow pharmacists and customers to confer jointly with the interpreters, Mylan L. Denerstein, executive deputy attorney general for social justice, said at a news conference in Brooklyn announcing the agreement.

Ms. Denerstein said that customers at the five companies’ pharmacies will have access to interpreting services in more than 150 languages.

In addition, the retailers have agreed to provide written information about the medication they sell in five of the main foreign languages spoken in New York: Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, and French.

Ms. Denerstein said the agreement was “a major undertaking” for the stores.

In a statement, Duane Reade said, “We applaud the attorney general’s efforts to upgrade prescription-translation services,” and noted that the company currently provides language translation services in 13 languages as well as telephone interpreting for more than 170 languages.

Last November, under pressure from Mr. Cuomo’s office, two other major pharmacy chains, CVS and Rite Aid, reached similar agreements.

The investigation began with a complaint filed in 2007 by a group of immigrant-advocates’ organizations, led by Make the Road New York, which works primarily with Latino immigrants in New York City.

“Over the past two decades, New York has undergone a major demographic shift,” the group’s co-executive director, Andrew Friedman, said at the news conference. “Literally millions of New Yorkers are in the process of learning English.”

While the state and New York City have tried to adjust to the increasing linguistic demands by providing services in an increasing array of languages, he said, “most New York State pharmacies have been lagging far behind.”

In an interview, Mr. Friedman said that the initial complaint to Mr. Cuomo’s office involved more than 20 customers who claimed they had not been able to communicate with pharmacists and could not read the written material provided to them. Most of the customers were Spanish speakers, he said.

One woman, he recalled, had been giving her child a medication by mouth, “and her kid kept throwing up.” She turned to Make The Road, which determined that the medicine was a topical drug. “We figured that if pharmacies were doing this badly in Spanish, they were doing significantly worse with other languages,” he said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/nyregion/22translate.html?ref=nyregion

Hispanic Buying Power: Will it Continue in 2009?

You may think it strange to discuss the growth of Hispanic buying power as the United States is in the midst of one of the deepest economic downturns in recent history.  But when times were flush, a few oft-quoted reports came out about the expected increase in Hispanic wealth-accumulation and buying power.   The SeligCenter for Economic Growth’s The Multicultural Economy is a rich source of data.  To access the entire report, click here.  A key piece of information from the report finds that Hispanic buying power is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2009 and $12.4 trillion by 2011.   United States residents may be buying less overall, and Latinos certainly have been hit hard by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, but with the surge in the Latino population, they will continue to buy goods and services.  Granted, most families are cutting back on purchases, but as the U.S. economy moves out of the recession, many marketing pros are counting on Latinos jumping back into the purchasing frame of mind.   A report from Experian Consumer Research indicates that Hispanics may be less affected by the recession due to certain cultural factors, including less reliance on credit for purchases and the pooling of resources among extended family.  And companies may be cutting their advertising budget and outreach to preserve jobs and keep their doors open, but Latinos are one demographic that should not be ignored.   This recession is too new to tell whether Hispanics have curtailed buying at the same rate as other ethnic groups, but article from the last recession in the early 21st century showed that Hispanics were less affected by the downturn.  Regardless, savvy marketing pros will continue to tailor their message to the demographic that shows the most promise whether that message is in Spanish or in English with a Latino flair.

A Very Latino Christmas in the U.S.

One of the joys of living in a country with such a high number of immigrants is witnessing how people from different cultures meld traditions from their home country with those of the U.S. Christmastime for Latino immigrants is no different, though the traditions brought from Latin America are much more evident in areas with a large Hispanic community. 

Latinos living in the States certainly don’t leave their Christmas traditions behind, but rather they add them to those they’ve found here.  As Latin America is predominantly Catholic, Latinos bring the focus on religion and family to their celebrations stateside, something that is often overlooked in the secularization of the holiday.

While each country in Latin America has different traditions, there are some similarities.  Posadas, which reenact the journey Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem, are most famous in Mexico, but are also done in other countries.  Puerto Rico has a similar tradition called parrandas.  Follow this link to read a description of posadas. It’s not uncommon to see Latinos having posadas in their neighborhoods in the U.S. from December 16th to December 24th. 

Most Latinos have their big family meal on December 24th after attending midnight mass and reserve Christmas Day for relaxing.  Since Latin American Christmas revolves more around celebrating Baby Jesus and reuniting with family, Santa Claus and his gifts are brought into the equation because of American influences. 

The Hispanic holiday season continues on through January 6th, which is the feast of the Epiphany or El Dia de Los Reyes Magos.  On this day, Latinos celebrate the arrival of the three kings or three wise men and children receive gifts.  Some may argue that this day is even more joyous than Christmas Eve and many Latinos purchase a special bread called La Rosca De Los Reyes.  To read more about this tradition, click here for an article about how this day is celebrated.

Should Americans Learn Spanish?

If you visit any of the scores of language immersion programs in Latin America, you’d think that Americans are thrilled to learn Spanish.  And anyone who attended a four year college or university probably had a least a few friends who spent a semester in Spain, Guatemala, or Argentina. 

But set foot in the United States and you’ll find a different sentiment about learning another language, especially if it’s Spanish.  For every newspaper article about the need to hire more bilingual police officers or court interpreters providing their services, you’ll find a litany of the same complaints.  These include: my grandma came from Italy and she learned English so Hispanics better too; why are my tax dollars paying police a salary differential for speaking the language of the illegals?; and if you don’t learn English, go back to your country?

Why is going abroad and learning some Spanish celebrated as a way to expand your mind, learn about a new culture, put some “Latin flavor” in your life, and add a new experience to your resume but the moment you reward someone for speaking Spanish in the States you are pandering to the “illegals” and eroding the fabric of America?  Do the benefits of flexing your linguistic muscles disappear once you’re Stateside? 

There will always be people who become enraged if the cashier at McDonald’s has a thick accent or immediately assumes that if your English is flawed or you speak Spanish to your partner you are an illegal alien.  And people will continue to battle against bilingual education even as their little American child holds hands with another child from Mexico, singing and chattering in English and in Spanish.

But for those who are intrigued about learning Spanish, even as you worry that the face of America is changing into something you don’t recognize, take some small steps toward learning about the varied facets of Latino culture and see if it still scares you.  Download some Marco Antonio Solis.  Learn to make chimichurriWatch the actors on a telenovela and see if you can follow the story through their gestures. 

Next time you’re in line behind a Spanish-speaking family in Walmart, maybe you won’t think to yourself: “Why don’t they just go back to their country if they don’t speak English?”

Providing Financial Services to the “Unbanked”

An article from the website Hispanic Bank Marketing cites that roughly 56 percent of Latinos are currently “unbanked,” meaning that they do not use financial institutions to keep their money safe and grow their savings.  Why such a high percentage?  The usual suspects of distrust, lack of accessibility, language barriers, and lack of understanding about how financial institutions can help come into play.

So what can banks and credit card companies do to reach out to this growing demographic in such a way that builds trust and shows Latinos how using financial institutions can be beneficial?

1. Having Spanish translations of flyers, publicity, forms, and contracts is always an excellent start.

2. Since online banking is becoming easier every day, a bank should have an easily navigable website available in Spanish.

3. At least one fully bilingual staff person should be available to answer questions, process transactions, and open accounts.

  • 4. Banks and lenders may want to consider providing financial literacy training in community settings (such as at churches or community centers) with the aim of educating potential customers rather than selling products.
  • 5. Once a bank representative finds a group to provide onsite financial literacy training to, she can offer add-on services such as one free credit counseling session at the bank.

Many Latino immigrants arrive in the U.S. with alternate ways of saving money.  An example of this is the Mexican tanda which allows a group of people to pool their savings over time so that each receives a large lump sum, then used to make a larger purchase or down payment.  And though remissions to family in one’s home country are decreasing in this economy, many Latinos continue sending potential savings back home. 

Most likely the latter situation will not change, and is indeed an important part of the Latino immigrant experience.  But by working with Latinos who are uneasy about putting their savings in the bank or nervous about cutting into their remissions, financial institutions can educate Latinos about alternate ways of savings and creating a long term safety net for their families both here and abroad.