The Power of Bilingualism: Cultural Identification Amongst LA Bilinguals

Marnie Cavanaugh, Reese Gover, Ethan Lee, Elisa Marin, Eva Reyman

Did you know that Los Angeles is the second most bilingual city in the US? Intrigued by the relevance of this topic, we were interested in taking a deeper dive into how the bilingual experience in LA shapes cultural identification and belonging, focusing on bilingual Spanish speakers. Although bilingualism can allow someone to connect to a broader range of people, we hypothesized at the beginning of our research that English-Spanish bilinguals in LA may feel cultural isolation. Feeling too American to connect to Hispanic culture, but with the knowledge of the Spanish language, too Hispanic to fit into American mainstream culture. However, our research concluded that being bilingual does not hinder one’s ability to connect with multicultural communities. Rather, bilingualism enhances it. Bilingualism helps thousands in the LA area connect with their Hispanic culture through the use of Spanish and American mainstream culture through their knowledge of English. Speech communities become expanded through their understanding of two or more languages. Cultural identification does not have to mean choosing one culture over the other. Many bilingual individuals choose to identify cross-culturally. Bilingualism in the LA area seems to be a tool to form greater connections rather than a tool that inhibits one’s ability to understand their cultural identification.

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