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05/27/2016 03:43 pm ET

Why The Spanish Language Isn't 'Foreign' In The United States

Millions of Americans speak Spanish every single day.

Anyone who’s ever enrolled in a Spanish class knows that schools generally refer to it as a “foreign language.” Most of us repeat the phrase uncritically, as if it were actually true. But is it?

Take a look around. Spanish isn’t “foreign” to the United States, at all. The names of many of our states and cities are Spanish — a testament to the fact that Spanish-speakers colonized many areas that later became part of the United States before English-speakers. Many of us use Spanish words when speaking English, often without being aware of what we’re doing. According to a 2013 Pew report, Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the country and many people, both immigrant and native-born, were raised speaking it.

When you really think about it, Spanish is no more "foreign" to the United States than English. Still not convinced? Allow us to break it down for you a bit. Here are nine reasons why Spanish is really is not a foreign language in the U.S. 

  • 1 Because lots of Americans speak Spanish
    As of 2012, approximately 38.3 million people in the U.S. spoke&nbsp;Spanish at home, according to the <a href="http://www.ce
    Getty
    As of 2012, approximately 38.3 million people in the U.S. spoke Spanish at home, according to the U.S. Census. That's 13 percent of U.S. residents ages 5 and older. 
  • 2 Because a bunch of our states, cities and streets have Spanish names
    Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California and Sacramento are all Spanish words or names. The l
    Getty
    Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California and Sacramento are all Spanish words or names. The list goes on and on.
  • 3 Because Spanish was spoken in what is today the United States before English
    Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, <a href="http://www.st
    Getty Images
    Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, founding a permanent colony in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 -- well before the English set up Jamestown. All European languages, on the other hand, are more foreign to North America than Karuk, Cherokee, Natchez or the scores of other languages of the indigenous peoples of the continent.
  • 4 Because the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain
    In 2013, the U.S. had the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. However, in 2015 it moved up to the <a href="
    Getty Images
    In 2013, the U.S. had the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. However, in 2015 it moved up to the number two spot behind Mexico.
  • 5 Because it’s the most-spoken language on the island of Puerto Rico
    And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens.
    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens.
  • 6 Because the U.S. does not have an official language
    English is not the official language of the United States.&nbsp;Though <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/
    Getty Images
    English is not the official language of the United States. Though several states across the nation have adopted legislation establishing English as their official language, no such legislation has been adopted on a federal level.
  • 7 Because even English-speaking people use Spanish words on a daily basis
    Words like "cafeteria," "vanilla," and even "ranch" are derived from Spanish.&nbsp;
    Creatas via Getty Images
    Words like "cafeteria," "vanilla," and even "ranch" are derived from Spanish. 
  • 8 Because this Spanish-language network is a ratings beast
    Spanish broadcast network Univision regularly <a href="http://corporate.univision.com/2016/05/may-sweeps-to-date-univision-ra
    Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage
    Spanish broadcast network Univision regularly outperforms English-language networks, especially on a local level. Univision stations in Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Sacramento closed out the May 2016 sweeps period as the most-watched early and late local newscasts among Adults ages 18-49, regardless of language.
  • 9 Because Spanish is becoming the second-most important language in politics
    Even candidates vying for political office recognize the fact that many of the nation's citizens speak Spanish, many releasin
    Getty
    Even candidates vying for political office recognize the fact that many of the nation's citizens speak Spanish, many releasing Spanish-language ads in an effort to connect with voters. 
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