California contains a huge number of Spanish speakers, with nineteen percent of California residents speaking Spanish. However, California’s sole official language is English. Three U.S. states have already added official languages besides English, and, as the Hispanic population in California is quickly growing, it’s time California considers joining them and adding Spanish as an official language.
There is already a precedent for states’ official languages to be the languages used before the U.S. took over. Alaska has over 10 official languages in addition to English. All these languages were native to Alaska before the U.S. took control of that land. When the U.S. annexed California, many Mexican citizens stayed behind. Spanish is currently the first language of 90% of Mexican citizens. Gloria Bell, a Berkeley High School student, said, “(The Spanish language is) a part of California history as well as modern-day culture.” The deep history Mexicans and Spanish-speaking people have in California should be reflected in California’s official languages.
Making Spanish an official language would be a statement to the Hispanic community that the government recognizes them. Making sure all people feel valued and recognized is a crucial part of creating active citizenship and pride in a state. Raquel Feldman, a BHS student said, “With the number of people that speak Spanish, especially in California, I think that (Spanish becoming an official language) would be such a nice thing.”
Recognizing Spanish as an official language of California would also make resources more accessible and make the lives of people who solely speak Spanish easier. Spanish being an official language would mean that communication from the government to citizens would always be in both English and Spanish. It would be easier for Spanish-speaking people to fill out government forms, apply for jobs, or simply find resources in their cities.
Although some might argue that because the majority of Californians don’t speak Spanish, it shouldn’t be added as an official language, it’s important to recognize that a large part of the California population is made up of people from Spanish-speaking countries.
Furthermore, there are no real drawbacks to having multiple official languages. As Bell said, “Why should we limit ourselves to one language? Making Spanish an official language improves inclusivity and shows how far California has come in recognizing its history and future.”