Ángel Franco/The New York Times
Carmen speaks Mixtec, and has picked up a bit of Spanish. Her husband, Juan Manuel, learned Spanish from co-workers.

Linguistic Isolation in NYC: Not All Latin American Immigrants Speak Spanish


Because of the way they look, people assume they speak Spanish, which can be confusing for many Latin American immigrants who speak only an indigenous language.

A July 10 article from the New York Times, introduces readers to Laura, a Mexican immigrant living in East Harlem, and Carmen, who is from the state of Guerrero in Mexico. Both women feel isolated because they speak Mixtec, a language indigenous to Mexico. Both need to rely on others for help in completing simple errands because of the language barrier.

“I feel bad because I can’t communicate with people,” Laura told the Times, partly in Spanish, partly in Mixtec. “I can’t do anything.”

While New York City is progressive when it comes to its language access policy, it only guarantees translation services in the six most-used non-English languages, none of which are indigenous languages.

Read the full story about Laura and Carmen and their struggles in New York City here.

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