The biggest state in the USA, California has undergone a big change in the last five decades. The Sunny state has always been home to millions of Hispanics and their population has only grown with time. In such a case, is it possible for the state to adopt Spanish as its official language?
Let us find out.
Two hundred years ago, California was a part of Mexico. Until it became a state of the United States in 1850, Spanish was the official language. If we travel back in time, California once belongs to the Native American tribes. Over a hundred or more tribes lived in these areas for a few thousand years.
The name California first appeared in Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s novel Las Sergas de Esplandián and was thought to be the land of beautiful Amazon warriors. Early exploiters confused Baja peninsula to be an island and named the surrounding area as California.
Since the time of the early missionaries, this land has seen different groups of people trying to rule it, starting with the early Spanish merchants. California saw a massive influx of European settlers who were enchanted by the new world and its warm winters and that is how the first white settlers who spoke Spanish came to California.
America and Mexico fought a war over California. Thanks to the power of the California Gold Rush, the territory got admitted to the union as a full state in 1850.
Today, Hispanics outnumber Caucasians in California, According to a 2010 survey, 40% of California’s population were non-English speakers. While Anglos form the largest minority of the total population, Hispanics and Latinos form 32% of the state’s population.
In the next two decades, the table will be fully turned and the Hispanics will be the majority in the state and thus Spanish will be the most commonly spoken language.
This fear has given rise to attempts to make English the ‘official’ language of the state. People arguing for the cause say that California has always been an English speaking state. But a look at the 1850 state constitution (Section 21 of ARTICLE XI) shows that English and Spanish were considered the official language even back then.
But here is something interesting. Even if Spanish becomes the majority language, it may not become the official language. Because that would mean all the state’s businesses will have to be carried out in Spanish. Every record will have to be created in Spanish, every government action to be written in Spanish, etc.
The State of California has conducted business for over 167 years in English. Its laws, legislation, road signs and everything else is in English.
To reverse all that and to make Spanish the official language will be extremely expensive and thus highly unlikely.
Spanish is already considered to an informal official language of the state. Owing to the number of Spanish speakers, a majority of businesses and even government offices are bilingual. Moreover, as the illegal Hispanics assimilate their future generations will gravitate toward the dominant English culture rather than stay Spanish.