June 23, 2008

Some Spanish language radio stations seem to think that English is the new Spanish. I am not sure what makes radio programmers add English language songs into their playlist.

I guess their logic fell in with those who insist that Spanish is dying out and the only way to attract young Hispanics is to add increasingly larger doses of English. You know, you hear it from the SiTV crowd all the time. They keep hoping that if they say it loud enough, over and over, it will be true. It isn't.

Latinos are different. Repeated studies show Hispanics cling to their language and to their cultural roots in unprecedented ways. I've mentioned several of those studies in these columns. I even commissioned one, to test the others, when I was writing my book, The Power of Business en Español. Lo and behold, it found the same thing.

In fact, that study by the Roslow Research Group found that the number of Spanish-dominant and bilingual Latinos will go up by 45 percent over the next two decades. By 2025, there will be more than 40 million Spanish speakers living in the U.S.A. That's up 12.5 million from 2000, which is like adding another Pennsylvania full of Spanish speakers to the population.

Some other nuggets from the study:

- Fully two-thirds of Hispanics age 5 and older will speak Spanish as a first language as comfortably as they do English twenty years from now.

- That includes 7.5 million in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic and 1.5 million in the youngest demo, the 5- to 17-year-olds.

- And, on average, 35 percent of third-generation Latinos in the United States, the grandkids of the immigrants, speak Spanish.

Bottom line: Spanish is not dying out among Hispanic youths, it's growing. How about the fact that more 18-34 year olds watched the Mexico / Argentina match during Copa America last year than watched the MLB All-star game. Or how about Premios Juventud that aired last week on the Univision network . The show dominated the night with the 18-34 year old crowd across the board. And by the way, all in good old Español. If these are not a wake up calls, then I do not know what is.
So, why do programmers think that adding English to their formats will help their ratings? I can only guess.

MTV probably added to the confusion unintentionally. When the music video mega power launched its newest brand last year, the bilingual MTV Tr3s for Latinos, a lot of people keyed in on the “bilingual” part. They said adding English was necessary to attract young Hispanics because they didn't speak Spanish. Wrong!

MTV already had an English-language network: MTV. They didn't need English to attract Hispanics. If young Latinos wanted to listen to English music they could watch MTV. The network added Spanish to attract young Hispanics in the United States, who want Spanish music.

Reality is that adding English is not a new idea, I can still remember Super Q in Miami during the 80's. Super Q was to be the future, bilingual and proud. Today it is Amor 107.5 one of the consistently highest rated Spanish Language radio stations in the country.

Jose Cancela is Principal of Hispanic USA Inc, a full service Hispanic Market Communications firm. He has also the author of “The Power of Business en Español, Seven Fundamental Keys to Unlocking the Potential of the Spanish Language Hispanic Market” Rayo / HarperCollins.

jose@hispanicusa.net

http://www.hispanicusa.net>

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