Seal of Biliteracy: Yet Another Reminder of Bilingual Marketing Potential

The Seal of Biliteracy is a good gesture - and a start in recognizing multilingual America.


At many high school graduations that took place in California this year, some of the students received a diploma with a gold seal added. It was the Seal of Biliteracy, demonstrating that the student had attained proficiency in two languages (one of which could be English).

That same seal—most often awarded by school districts—cropped up on high school diplomas in Washington State, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, New York State, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. These are the states that as of writing this have passed the Seal of Biliteracy legislation. What began in California as a grassroots initiative in 2008 is quickly gaining ground.

Spanish: the Go-To Language for Smart Marketers

The Seal of Biliteracy is a good gesture, but only a start in recognizing multilingual America. More than 60 million people in this country speak a language other than English at home. In New York City, that’s true for almost half the population. In Honolulu, 10 percent of the residents speak Japanese at home.

Vietnamese is more common in New Orleans now than French. In Chicago, many Poles continue to speak Polish. And in Miami, two-thirds of the people speak Spanish.

Spanish is just one of the 381 languages that make America multilingual (169 of which are Native languages). But without a doubt, it is one that US marketers simply cannot ignore. The Seal serves as yet another reminder for companies to translate into Spanish to truly engage with the 52-million strong Hispanic community, if they aren’t already doing so.

By 2050, Hispanics will constitute about one-third of the country’s population. Their purchasing power in 2012 weighed in at $1,200 billion. And they put their pennies where it counts for the American economy: in transportation, real estate, food, retail, financial services, entertainment and education.

Hispanics: A Dream Community to Market to

What more and more marketers are learning is that reaching out to the Hispanic community holds the potential for huge rewards. Overall, the Hispanic community skews just the way marketers like to see: young and tech-savvy.

About three-quarters of them are younger than 45, and 60 percent are younger than 35. Hispanics lead in the use of mobile devices—more than 75 percent of them reach for their smartphones. Even more—nearly 9 in 10 households—have high-speed Internet in their homes. And they are serious supporters of social media.

Their online purchases totaled $2.2 billion in 2012, and it’s growing.

But why market to Hispanics in Spanish, you may wonder, if many of them—younger Hispanics in particular—speak English? Because it sends a strong signal that your company respects their heritage and has a desire to engage with them beyond the sale.

It strengthens the brand’s ties with the community, which, in turn, fosters brand loyalty.

Thomas Jefferson, himself a multilinguist, felt that all Americans should learn Spanish to fully appreciate their country’s history. Those gold seals of biliteracy in California and elsewhere just might lead to gold stars for companies that follow suit.