Monday, September 17, 2012

Cultural Attitudes and Language Preference of Hispanics: Marketing Implications

Do attitudes towards Latino culture change depending on the language preference of Hispanics? This is a question that has importance to marketers and service providers.  If cultural attitudes differ for those who prefer to speak English and those who prefer to speak Spanish then one can conclude that language preference is also an indicator of how close one is to one’s own culture. If on the contrary, cultural attitudes do not differ or differ to a small extent between English and Spanish preferred Latinos, then one can conclude that the overall Latino culture persists regardless of current language preference.

Using data from the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study that was collected in the twelve months ending on March 16, 2012, I created crosstabulations of language preference by cultural attitudes among Hispanics. Language preference was gauged as the language the respondent prefers to speak in general and the response categories were Only English, Mostly English but Some Spanish, Mostly Spanish but Some English, and Only Spanish. For this analysis I collapsed Only and Mostly English and Only and Mostly Spanish to form the preferences for English or Spanish.

Cultural attitudes were measured with a Likert type scale “Agree a lot,” Agree a little,” “Neither agree nor disagree,” “Disagree a little,” and Disagree a Lot.”  The items to agree or disagree with were:  

  • I believe it is important to teach Spanish to Hispanic Children as a way to help preserve Hispanic culture
  • I have more Hispanic friends than non-Hispanic friends
  • I make an effort to have my personal appearance reflect that I am Hispanic/Latino
  • Speaking English in our home is a priority in our Household
  • Speaking Spanish in our home is a priority in our Household

The two agree response categories in the scale were added up to have an overall agreement percentage.  The following chart shows the average percentages for those who prefer to speak English and those who prefer to speak Spanish for each of the attitudes.

The reader can see that generally speaking those who prefer to communicate in English exhibit a lesser priority in endorsing items that reflect a cultural attachment.  In particular, and in a somewhat obvious way, those who prefer to speak in English express that Speaking English at home is more of a priority for them than for their Spanish preferred counterparts. That trend is strongly reversed for those who prefer to speak Spanish as they indicate a very strong priority for Spanish to be the language of the home.

What is counterintuitive and revealing is that a large majority of those who prefer to speak English indicate that teaching Spanish to Children is a way to help preserve Hispanic culture. To me that means that preferring to speak English does not necessarily mean that the Spanish language is not highly thought of.

That those that prefer Spanish have more Hispanic friends than those who prefer English is not surprising.  The social networks of those who prefer English are likely to be wider and more diversified. Those who prefer Spanish are likely to live and work in conditions that may be somewhat  more segregated.

While a Latino personal appearance is not highly important in general, those who prefer Spanish endorse it to a larger extent.  And that is not very surprising either, because as one’s circles and circumstances expand one is more likely to also acquire the styles of those varied groups.

The main lesson for marketing, from my point of view is that while language preference does differentiate Latinos’ cultural attitudes, positive attitudes towards cultural elements persist among those who prefer to speak English.  In particular this is true when it comes to the education of children. It is an ambition to have one’s kids learn Spanish as a proxy for preserving the culture.

The moral of the story is that while Hispanics may be acculturating and switching to English as they stay longer in the United States, their loyalty to their heritage appears to persist.  Thus, cultural messages are likely to be a key link to reaching out to Hispanics be they Spanish or English preferred.

The data used here is from the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study and collected from January 31, 2011 to March 16, 2012. The sample contained 3,518 English preferred Latinos, and 2,104 Spanish preferred Hispanics.

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