Why Many Bilingual U.S. Hispanics Have a Strong Emotional Connection to Spanish

While bilingual U.S. Hispanics are able to move fluidly between both English and Spanish, new research suggests they may have a stronger emotional connection to Spanish if it was the first language learned. 

In a previous blog post we shared the stat from Pew Research Center that 36% of Hispanics in the United States are bilingual. That’s a significant number.

But just because an individual can speak and understand both languages doesn’t necessarily mean they will respond to both languages in the same way. This is something all marketers should keep in mind.

Exploring the Prevalence and Relevance of L1 Languages

A recent post from Latinum Network titled Just How Important is Spanish for Bilingual Hispanics? shares some research on the topic of how the different languages are view by U.S. bilingual Hispanics. The post states…

“If you are lucky enough to be fully bilingual, however, the language of your earliest memory may be different than the language you currently use in daily life. This one characteristic has profound implications for targeting bilingual consumers.”

In explaining why the language of first memory matters, the post provides these stats and insights:

  • 14 million U.S. Hispanic bilingual consumers 18+ (proficient in reading and writing in English and Spanish) or 40% of all 18+ U.S. Hispanics
  • Roughly 90% of bilingual Hispanics have a definitive L1 (either English or Spanish)
  • L1 languages offer deeper wells of emotional connection because they accompany the earliest, most formative, most nostalgic memories
  • Breakdown between English as L1 and Spanish as L1 for U.S. Hispanic bilinguals:
    • 62% Spanish
    • 27% English
    • 11% Don’t Know
  • Almost two-thirds of bilinguals—roughly 9 million—have a more emotional, deeper connection to Spanish

Why is this important to brands looking to effectively reach U.S. Hispanic customers?

The Latinum Network post concludes with this key takeaway:

“Brands in more emotional categories or brands with more emotional, equity-building messages have the potential to resonate more deeply with bilingual consumers if they communicate in Spanish.”