If you’ve ever met someone in America who is good at Spanish, that’s great. More of us should work to be multilingual. But the majority of United States citizens speak only one language, which is English. Although many schools have mandatory Spanish classes, the language goes in one ear and out the other for most people.
A study conducted by our resident research organization, Outsider Labs, targeted one thousand middle-aged American adults. The idea was very simple: to determine what percentage of U.S. residents had any talent at speaking in Spanish. It simply presented a word in the Spanish language and asked a participant in the study to make their best guess at what the word meant.
For relatively little-known Spanish words, such as aspiradora (vacuum cleaner), estante (shelf), and dongo (I give), the results were shocking. Only two percent knew the meaning of each of those possibly-useful words.
Even for extremely common words, participants were clueless. One example is beber (to drink). A measly five percent comprehended. Some supposed “gimmes” like negro (black), hasta mañana (see you tomorrow), and agua (water) clocked in at only 17%, 12%, and 15%, respectively. This just goes to show how pathetic the average American’s Spanish-speaking is.