English-Language Learning
In Latin America

<<Creo que el Occidente, y quizá el planeta, será bilingüe; el español y el inglés, que se complementan, serán el habla común de la humanidad>>

<< I believe that the West, and perhaps the planet, will be bilingual: Spanish and English, which complement each other, will be the common tongue of humanity>>

Jorge Luis Borges

The mother tongue of most Latin Americans is either Spanish or Portuguese.  The most important second language is English, for a number of reasons.  Mostly, they are related to the influence of Latin Ameica's English-speaking neighbor to the north, the United States of America.

The short list shows that Latin American have many reasons and opportunities to learn English.  In the Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica study, we found that 15.6% of Latin Americans between the ages of 12 and 64 describe themselves as being able to understand spoken English 'somewhat' or 'very well', and 14.4% of them describe themselves as being able to understand written English 'somewhat' or 'very well'.  In numerical terms, the number of Latin Americans who say that they either understand or speak English 'somewhat' or 'very well' is 34 million.

For global media companies, these figures have major implications. Typically, the original editorial contents (whether television or print) were in English, and these figures represent a likely cap on the potential audience for untranslated content. To reach a broader audience, the material must be translated, which has its own set of problems (e.g. costs, timeliness, loss of authenicity, etc).

How do these Latin Americans acquire their English-language skills?  The most common way is from schools, which is how 64% (or 21.8 million) of these 34 million people said they learned English.  About two-thirds of these 21.8 million people took English for more than one year in school.

The next most common way is by having lived abroad, which was how 24% (or 8 million) of these 34 million people said they learned English.  About one-third of these 8 million people have lived abroad for more than one year.

After that, in order of decreasing frequency, the methods are

WWW References

(posted by Roland Soong, 10/15/98)

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