Half of Non-Spanish Speaking Latinos in the US Have Felt ‘Shamed’ by Other Latinos
A new study conducted by the Pew Research Center confirmed statistics many Latinos living in the United States know all too well. Being a non-Spanish speaking Latino can be ostracizing, and fellow Latinos may make you “feel bad” for not being able to carry on conversations in Spanish.
In fact, according to the study, 54% of Latinos who do not speak Spanish have felt “shamed” by their comunidad for not speaking the language.
Non-Spanish speaking U.S. Latinos are often referred to as “no sabo kids,” stemming from the wrong way of saying “no sé,” or, “I don’t know.” And while the term was once derogatory, it has since been reclaimed. As reported by NBC, many young Latinos who do not speak Spanish are taking back the “no sabo” term on TikTok and running with it.
For example, searching “no sabo” on TikTok uncovers hilarious, very relatable videos of U.S. Latinos making fun of their own difficulties speaking Spanish. This seems to be a positive way of, well, taking the shame off:
UCLA professor Dr. David Hayes Bautista asserted to NBC, “It’s not language that makes you Latino.” And as he often reminds others, being Latino is “separable from Spanish.” Meaning, you do not have to speak Spanish to be considered Latino.
One X user’s comment that really hits that point home? @cempazuchit1 explaining that they will never feel bad about being a “no sabo kid” — because their “parents’ first language was Zapotec, not Spanish:
Here are the most interesting points of the study, that decode what it means to be a Latino living in the U.S.
More than half of Latinos who don’t speak Spanish have felt “shamed” by their community for it
The new research study compiles fascinating evidence about Latino identity in the U.S. — especially in relation to language.
For one, it found that most Latinos living in the United States speak Spanish. Specifically, 75% say they can carry on conversations in Spanish “pretty well” or “very well.”
However, 24% of all Latino adults say they are just “a little” or “not at all” conversational in Spanish.
One of the most interesting findings of the study, though? 78% of U.S. Latinos think it is “not necessary” to speak Spanish in order to be considered Latino. Meanwhile, only 21% say it is necessary. This may signify a big step towards the future — and that people may place less judgement on “no sabo kids” than they did in the past.
However, not everything is as peachy for non-Spanish-speaking Latinos. In fact, 40% of all U.S. Latinos say they have often — or extremely often — heard others make jokes about Latinos who do not speak Spanish. Another 29% said they have heard this occur “sometimes.”
And, as aforementioned, 54% of Latinos who do not speak Spanish have felt “shamed” by fellow Latinos for their language barrier.
This evidence is something that many of us U.S. Latinos know far too well. For one, your mom might have poked fun of you for calling a carpet a “carpeta,” or even pointing at the roof and calling it a “roofa.” Even if your Spanish improved later in life with tons of practice, your tios or abuelos might still laugh about those memories to this day.
And while those “no sabo” moments can be funny, they can also lead to “shame” that makes it difficult to approach learning Spanish later on in life. As one X user wrote, “I think it’s very rude for my Mexican dads to never teach me Spanish growing up and then make fun of me [for it]”:
The study’s statistics also bring to mind the Washington State-based sibling band, Yahritza y su Esencia, who came under fire last month for their comments about Mexico. Many people criticized the band members for saying they preferred Washington’s “better” food, or non-spicy “chicken” over anything that has “chile” in it.
Others shamed the band for being “no sabo” kids. Still, it is important to note that two of the three band members were born in Washington — and did not travel to their parents’ homeland of Mexico because of immigration issues.
As one X user put it, the controversy that erupted over Yahritza y su Esencia’s comments exposes the difficulties of being bicultural. In essence, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
One more finding? As expected, speaking Spanglish is very common in the U.S.
Another interesting point of the study showed how many people speak Spanglish in the U.S. As per the research findings, 63% of U.S. Latinos speak Spanglish at least “sometimes.” 40% say they speak Spanglish “often.”
Interestingly, when looking towards the future, most U.S. Latinos still believe in the importance of keeping Spanish alive in the culture. A whopping 94% of U.S. Latinos say it is “at least somewhat important” for future U.S. Latinos to speak Spanish.
And that sentiment might just be what’s behind the “shame” many Latinos place on others for not speaking the language. As one X user described their experience, “[Fellow Latinos will] shame you for not speaking Spanish, and then when you do, try [to] just make fun of you”:
Countless others relate. In fact, another X user wrote, “Our people are our worst judges”:
Many more speak to getting “bullied” at home by family members:
As another put it, people bullying them for not speaking Spanish is unfortunately the norm:
Still, others “hate” the fact that they don’t speak Spanish, saying they feel “culturally watered down”:
It’s a lot. One important note, though? As one other X user wrote, older generations were once “punished for speaking Spanish” in the U.S. So why are their descendants getting “shamed” for following these arbitrary — and antiquated — rules?
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