Latinos Explain Why We Should ‘Get Paid’ for Using Spanish at Work, How To Stop Translating for Free
For Latinos, being bilingual can mean you’ve signed up for a lifetime of translating. Whether it’s with family, at the grocery store, or out on the street, we’re always ready to lend an ear to other Spanish speakers.
But at work, many Latinos are not as eager to take on that extra work for their employer. In the past few months, videos on social media have revived the conversation around bilingual pay. The debate started in July when a woman on TikTok posted a video about how she demanded extra pay for translating to Spanish at work.
At the time, the video struck a chord with many Latinos who are often asked to translate at work, even though that was not a skill they were hired to do.
“If a white person goes to school and they learn Spanish, they’re getting $2 or $3 more than the rest of us,” Chena Guillen explained on TikTok. “I should get paid if I’m using it.”
Bilingual Latinos are resurfacing fair pay for translating at work
Recently, TikToks on negotiating and advocating for bilingual pay at work have been making the rounds. In one video, creator Christian Maldonado is role-playing in an interview where the employer says the standard bilingual pay is $1 per hour more. For that, Maldonado says you get the “Dora-level package.”
As the prices go up, so does the level of fluency. For $2, “un poquito mas, y un poquito más rápido. Level-15 Duolingo package,” he calls it. Once they hit $4 per hour more, Maldonado turns fully fluent: “Hasta puedo empezar ahorita si quieres ¿Donde me acomodo?”
Those translation services are “optional” for him, he explains in the video. It all depends on whether the company is ready to pay for the services and what their “bilingual pay differential policy” is.
That’s the same question another viral video asks. In the animated TikTok, a woman named Veronica is interviewing for a job when she’s asked about her resume that says she “could” speak Spanish.
She put that on there because she could speak it depending, once again, on the company’s pay differentials. Like Maldonado’s video, the more she gets paid, the better she is suddenly able to speak Spanish.
Latinos have been negotiating bilingual pay since the early 70s, now they’re hoping it’ll have more success
People shared stories about negotiating bilingual pay in the comments section, proving this all too common. “Do you want Google Rosetta Stone or Street version depends on your budget,” one comment on Maldonado’s video said. “This is exactly what we need to do!” said another.
Despite the comedic twist, the conversation is all too real. Especially as demand for bilingual speakers continues to rise. The United States currently ranks as the world’s fourth-largest Spanish-speaking country. Certain estimates say that by 2060, 27.5 percent of the U.S. population will be Latino.
Now, more than ever, it is likely that you will encounter a Spanish speaker in the U.S. at some point. And for some, like doctors and government officials, it’s important to have someone with translation skills in their offices.
As the Washington Post noted back in 1996, in the early 70s, the Los Angeles Police Department created “bonus pay positions for officers who use a second language on the job.”
“I’m working three times as much as the person who just speaks English,” George Rodriguez told the Post at the time. He was part of a group of U.S. Customs inspectors in Miami who threatened to stop speaking Spanish unless they got a 5 percent raise.
Now, companies might test your language skills before agreeing on how much more to pay for translation services. But, like asking for a raise, it might require some negotiation and advocating for your skills.