Why English AND Spanish are the Official Languages of the Internet for Hispanics


The debate rages on. As marketers think about how to execute Total Market digitally, they often ask themselves what language is best to reach online Hispanics. Some have argued that “English is the official language of the Web, even for Spanish-dominant Hispanics.”

I disagree. I provided some insight into “Why Spanish will always be critical for reaching Hispanics online” back in June of 2013 and consulted more recent research to illustrate why both English and Spanish are imperative for reaching online Hispanics. The research can be divided into two buckets:

In What Language Do Hispanics Consume Internet Content?

Most of the recent research indicates that a large number of Hispanics consume Internet content in both English and Spanish.

A 2014 Experian Marketing Services study found that:

  • 53% of Hispanics use English online
  • 32% use both languages
  • 13% use Spanish

The latest 2013 Nielsen Latin Power Shift study reported that:

  • 24% of Latinas use English online
  • 67% use both languages
  • 9% use Spanish

This data shows that there are two official Internet languages for Hispanics. Some might argue that Spanish usage is comparatively low, and are therefore quick to dismiss its importance. But before drawing any conclusions, it is important to understand why this data indicates that Spanish usage is low in these kinds of studies.

In What Language Do Hispanics Want to Use the Internet?

When considering which language Hispanics use online, it is important to note that there is a natural bias towards English because the majority of Internet content is in English. When asked what language they use the Internet in, Hispanics will gravitate towards English because there is simply more content in English. Looking at actual Internet behavior and data that highlights what online Hispanic desire helps illustrate this point.

Actual language usage by US Hispanic Facebook users

  • 43% both English and Spanish
  • 40% Spanish
  • 17% English

The 2014 Nielsen Latin Power Shift study reported that:

  • 56% of Latinas wish there was more online lifestyle information in Spanish
  • 62% wish there was more lifestyle content written for them

Another way to substantiate this point is to look at Hispanic language preferences across more mature, traditional media that offers robust Spanish content.

The 2014 Experian Marketing Services study found that:

  • 33% of Hispanics watch TV in English
  • 53% both languages
  • 13% Spanish

The same study found that:

  • 29% of Hispanics listen to the radio in English
  • 50% both languages
  • 19% Spanish

The same study found that:

  • 38% of Hispanics read in English
  • 40% both languages
  • 21% Spanish

Based on hard data, it is clear that English and Spanish are the official languages of online Hispanics. Marketers looking to engage with Hispanics online should not simply discard Spanish; they should understand the nuances and richness of language use among online Hispanics and devise strategies to address them in English and/or Spanish.

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