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Why English-Speaking Latinos Are Criticized by Other Latinos? Research Paper

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Updated: May 5th, 2020


According to Torres, Driscoll, and Voell (2012), Latinos constitute one of the largest minority groups in the United States. Moreover, the racial group has been recorded to grow at a very high rate over the years. These authors also speculate that the racial group will grow by 30 percent by the year 2050 (Torres, Driscoll, & Voell, 2012). Despite the high population of the Latino race in the United States, the members continue to face discrimination from the white majority and other racial groups.

In addition, there is also discrimination and criticism among individuals from the ethnic group. The English speaking Latinos experience this discrimination, and it is based on proficiency in English. In reference to Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012), the majority of the Latinos prefer communicating in Spanish since it is their mother tongue. However, demands from the employment markets force them to learn English and promote communication with the rest of the population.

In this regard, English proficiency has become an important factor associated with success in school and in the employment sector. Furthermore, many Latinos continue to enroll in English proficiency courses. Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012) also acknowledge that English proficiency has a significant association with the mental health status of the minority racial groups in the United States.

Despite the efforts of some Latinos to learn English, they continue to experience discrimination from other Latinos. Specifically, they are accused of failing to associate with their Spanish roots and culture. They receive this criticism from those who are less fluent in English. The aim of the current research is to assess whether English-speaking Latinos face discrimination from other Latinos.

Latinos who speak English are criticized by other Latinos

Tran (2010) indicates that immigration has become an important part of the United States population growth, as communities from different parts of the world continue to relocate there. The high rate of immigration has resulted in the development of various regions across America. In 2008, for example, a quarter of the American population constituted immigrants. The assimilation of these racial groups is likely to reshape the image of America in the future. English proficiency has become an important component of assimilation.

In reference to Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012), the English language has become a crucial part of Latino people since the racial group has been growing drastically over the years. Moreover, more individuals are enrolling in schools and getting employed in the professional job market. Tran (2010) notes that the influx of immigrants in the early 2000s led to an increase in the number of individuals with low English proficiency in America.

This problem was more pronounced among the Latinos, as 78 percent were foreign-born by this time. Cofresí and Gorma (2004) acknowledge that English proficiency is an important factor in promoting the social status of Latinos. Specifically, the variable has been associated with earning and employment status.

It also determines the level of discrimination that Latinos face during their social interactions. In addition, the majority of the research on English proficiency seems to concentrate on the discrimination of Latinos by other racial groups. There is a dearth of research on the kind of discrimination that English-speaking Latinos are subjected to by their own race.

According to Tran (2010), English proficiency has played a major role in the economic assimilation of the immigrant population in America. A lot of research has reported a positive correlation between English proficiency and the level of earning. Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012) also note that speaking with an accent has been associated with bullying and discrimination among the Latino group. Moreover, low-proficiency in English has been known to affect the general health of immigrants.

Tran (2010) identifies two major reasons why English language proficiency among Latinos is important. First, it enables the community to become better assimilated to the American way of life. Indeed, English proficiency has been known to promote cultural adaptation. In addition, the acquisition of English by the first-generation Latinos enables them to transmit their cultural values to the American born-Latinos. Second, English proficiency among the Latinos enhances bilingualism in America.

On the one hand, American-born Latino children have been reported to be very proficient in English and less fluent in Spanish. On the other hand, the older- Latino generation has been reported to speak pure Spanish and less English. As a result, communication barriers occur between the two groups. The younger Latinos are criticized for abandoning the Spanish language and their traditions.

This discrimination is due to the assumption that the acquisition of English occurs at the cost of abandoning their mother tongue. Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012) also note that Latinos who are fluent in English are often viewed as ‘abandoning their own people.’

Research by Tran (2010) also acknowledges that second-generation Latinos often face discrimination from other Latinos due to their English proficiency. These individuals are discriminated against due to the difficulties that they experience when communicating in Spanish. The author also reports that this discrimination results in the social isolation of the English speaking Latinos.

Zhang, Hong, Takeuchi, and Mossakowski (2012) also note that English-speaking Latinos face the same kind of discrimination that is experienced by the Latinos who speak with an accent. Moreover, they are accused of adapting to the ‘white’ way of life and neglecting their culture. However, Torres, Driscoll, and Voell (2012) acknowledge the importance of improving English Language Skills among the Latinos. Cofresí and Gorma (2004) state that English speaking Latinos should ensure that they also understand Spanish.

This is because Spanish is an important tool for negotiating within the family setting. In this view, knowledge of Spanish is likely to enhance the level of communication within the family. Conversely, Tran (2010) recommends a bi-linguistic approach.

The author indicates that English is important in education and the work environment. Thus, the second-generation Latinos should not only concentrate on learning English but also Spanish. Tran (2010) also indicates that bilingualism should be an important part of the identity of the immigrant groups.

Cabassa (2004) recognizes that immigrant children experience challenges in trying to become bilingual. Even though they make efforts to learn their native languages, the American education system identifies English as the language of instruction. Moreover, most of the peers that they interact with our proficiency in English. This makes it harder for them to learn other languages.

According to research undertaken by Worthy and Rodríguez-Galindo (2006), most Latino children experience loss of fluency in Spanish after being assimilated into the American culture. As a result, the majority of young Latinos can only be able to communicate in English. These children have to be conversant in English to fit into their peer groups. In reference to Cabassa (2004), the children experience pressure from their family to learn Spanish.

The research by Worthy and Rodríguez-Galindo (2006) revealed that most of the English speaking Latino children faced a lot of criticism and pressure from their parents to learn Spanish. As a result, the children felt rejected and denigrated when interacting with their families. Moreover, the research indicated that some of the children totally resisted talking in Spanish in fear of developing accents. The authors state that the older generation Latinos are responsible for this kind of discrimination.

This is due to the value given to the retention of the native language within the family. According to Cabassa (2004), children are more likely to value the opinions that they get from their peers rather than that of their parents. This could explain why most of the Latino children have low-proficiency in Spanish.

Cobas and Feagin (2008) point out that many Latino individuals are affected by internalized racism. This is because of the discrimination previously caused by the white race. As a result, they assume that everything, including English language proficiency, is a form of racism. They also believe that the white race’s ignorance of Spanish is a form of disapproval toward Latinos.

There are also reports that the Spanish language is often ridiculed by the white race. Therefore, Latinos who speak English fluently are viewed as ignorant of the Latino culture and receive criticism from their own race. Tran (2010) indicates that Latinos view English language assimilation as a means of abandoning the Spanish language. Although the first-generation Latinos learnt some English, they still preferred to communicate in their mother tongue.

The second-generation Latinos are reported to speak in Spanish only when communicating with their family members. However, the third-generation citizens speak only in English. Moreover, patterns of internalized racism are more common among the older generation Latinos. Tran (2010) acknowledges that the third generation Latinos are bound to experience discrimination due to the generation gap. Such criticism can be attributed to the racial stereotyping subjected to the Latinos, whether real or internalized.

Cobas and Feagin (2008) indicate that the low Spanish fluency is often viewed as a disregard for their cultural identity. English speaking Latinos are accused of failing to treasure their origin and Spanish culture. This is likely to subject them to some form of judgment. In a research undertaken by Acevedo-Polakovich, Quirk, Cousineau, Saxena, and Gerhart (2014) on the impact of cultural identity and performance in school, the authors reported that cultural identity was high in acculturated Latinos.

Thus, this disputes the view that English-speaking individuals pay little regard to their culture. The authors also acknowledge that ethnic and cultural identity promotes academic performance among young Latinos. In addition, these individuals concentrate on learning English to enable them to fit well within the ethnic platforms. Cobas and Feagin (2008) also note that cultural involvement of these individuals promotes cultural identity.

In this view, English proficiency is not related to a lack of cultural identity. In reference to Acevedo-Polakovich, Quirk, Cousineau, Saxena, and Gerhart (2014), being bi-cultural enables an individual to function optimally in both cultures. On the one hand, knowledge of Spanish enhances socialization within the ethnic communities.

On the other hand, proficiency in English promotes success in education and employment. However, Latinos who lack proficiency in English do not view the concept of being ‘bi-cultural’ as important. They prefer their racial group to identify solely with the Spanish language and culture. Therefore, they criticize anyone who does not conform to their preference.


The Latino racial group constitutes one of the largest ethnic minorities in the United States (Cobas & Feagin, 2008). Many immigrants in America face discrimination due to their inability to speak fluent English. As a result, individuals have over the years enrolled in classes to improve their proficiency in the language. Cobas and Feagin (2008) acknowledge that proficiency in English is a major determinant of social and employment success. Moreover, the American education system requires a high level of fluency in English.

Latinos speaking with a Spanish accent also face discrimination from other racial groups. This research also proves that English speaking Latinos also experience criticism from other Latinos. They are accused of disregarding their Spanish roots and culture. In addition, parents of third-generation Latinos have been known to criticize their children for not speaking in Spanish. These children are accused of identifying with American life rather than the Spanish culture. Such discrimination creates tension within the family setting.

In an effort to avoid such criticism, researchers recommend that small children be taught to be bilingual earlier on in life (Tran, 2010). In this case, they are able to fit well in American society and enhance communication within the family setting. In summary, the research reveals that Latinos experience discrimination from their own group based on English language proficiency. Additionally, the research notes that knowledge of English among various racial groups is very beneficial as it promotes their integration within society.


Acevedo-Polakovich, I. D., Quirk, K. M., Cousineau, J. R., Saxena, S. R., & Gerhart, J. I. (2014). Acting bi-cultural versus feeling bi-cultural: Cultural adaptation and school-related attitudes among U.S. Latina/o youth. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 13(1), 32–47.

Cabassa, L. J. (2004). Measuring acculturation: Where we are and where we need to go. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25(9), 127-146.

Cobas, J. A., & Feagin, J. R. (2008). Language oppression and resistance: The case of middle class Latinos in the United States. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 31(2).

Cofresí, N. I., & Gorma, A. A. (2004). Testing and assessment issues with Spanish-English bilingual Latinos. Journal of Counseling and Development, 82, 99–106.

Torres, L., Driscoll, M. W., & Voell, M. (2012). Discrimination, acculturation, acculturative stress, and Latino psychological distress: A moderated mediational model. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(1), 17–25.

Tran, V. C. (2010). English gain vs. Spanish loss? Language assimilation among second-generation Latinos in young adulthood. Social Forces, 89(1), 257–284.

Worthy, J., & Rodríguez-Galindo, A. (2006). “Mi Hija Vale Dos Personas”: Latino immigrant parents’ perspectives about their children’s bilingualism. Bilingual Research Journal, 30(2), 579-601.

Zhang, W., Hong, S., Takeuchi, D. T., & Mossakowski, K. N. (2012). Limited English proficiency and psychological distress among Latinos and Asian Americans. Social Science and Medicine, 75(6), 1006–1014.

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