Nuño, left, and Soberón: promoting English. Nuño, left, and Soberón: promoting English.

Secretary forecasts a bilingual Mexico

Education Secretariat is preparing a national English program

Mexico will be a bilingual country within 10 to 20 years, the new Secretary of Education forecast yesterday.


Aurelio Nuño Mayer said the federal government is working on the creation of a national English program in order to reach that goal.

“English is the language through which we can all communicate; it is a tool and a fundamental part of professional development and modernization,” he said, and necessary for workers to carry out their jobs.

Nuño made the announcement during the official signing of an agreement with the Secretary of the Navy to provide scholarships for English training. The scholarship program will provide three months of total English immersion training to 17 members of the Navy, who will go on to become English-language instructors.

The Education Secretary, who was named to the post August 27, remarked that the Mexican Navy has always been an innovative organization, and offered high praise for the Naval University. It could become the most important naval-military institution in the world, Nuño said.

Navy Secretary Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz commented on the importance of naval officers being proficient in English to be able to participate in international naval exercises.

Estimates of the number of Mexicans who speak or understand English run between 2% and 5%, a situation that represents a great cost to the country’s competitiveness internationally, says the head of a think tank.


Juan Pardinas Carpizo of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) expressed alarm earlier this year that teaching English was not a priority in a country whose major trading partners are English-speaking.

He cited some figures to make his point: 80% of basic education graduates — those who complete primary and secondary levels — have no knowledge of English at all, and in only 48% of Mexico’s universities is English a mandatory course.

Nor do businesses allocate any resources for training staff in English. “It is a subject that has been abandoned not only by the government, but by the private sector as well.”

Pardinas observed that workers who can speak English can earn 28% to 50% more than those who do not.

Source: Emeequis (sp), Sin Embargo (sp), El Financiero (sp)

Stories from our archives that you might enjoy

  • PintorEnMexico

    Espero que lo mismo suceda en los Estados…

    • John Linden

      No, es igual que aca, toda la raza habla Español y no saben Ingles!

    • Beau

      Buena!— but they still don’t want speaking English illegals.

    • Güerito

      Los Estados … de Mexico? Yo tambien. Pero lo dudo.

  • Being billingual would be a step backwards as Mexico is already multi-lingual. While learning English does help with international commerce, honoring the rich diversity of languages of los indígenas would be a step forward to honoring the heritage of Mexico. After I become fluent in Spanish, it is my goal to become conversational in Nahuatl, the language of los indígenas in my area.

    • Sanchez

      If you haven’t discovered it already, there is a handy Spanish to Náhuatl translator at It is interesting to discover how many Náhuan words we use regularly in both English and Spanish. Good luck in your journey.

    • John Linden

      I think the point of the article was that people will prosper and have better opportunities if they have a decent level of English. Only a small percentage of the population speak an indigenous language and there is very little interest in learning these languages, unfortunately.

      • I understood the point of the article, but I saw the headline as disrespectful to the existing linguistic diversity already here in Mexico. Sadly the cultural genocide of los indígenas continues as they continue to get marginalized and ignored.

        • Güerito

          Language is the front on which that battle should be waged.

        • John Linden

          I don’t think there is anything disrespectful as Mexico is principally a Spanish speaking country. The Americans killed all the natives and their languages and prospered, nobody seems to care.

          • I care, and yes, the genocide of the Native Americans continues in the Americas North and South. And yes, Spanish is the principle and official language of Mexico, but the Law of Indigenous Linguistic Rights in 2003, the languages of the los indígenas have the status as national languages, with equal validity with Spanish in all the areas and contexts in which they are spoken. The Mexico Daily News should know that and be more respectful in their word choice.

          • Not mentioning the existence of language diversity and then addressing bilingualism as a goal seems on the surface disrespectful. Acknowledging the existence of something is a first step. Many Mexicans are already bilingual … bilingual indígenas language and Spanish. A better headline would be something like, “Secretary has goal in increase Spanish/English bilingualism.”

    • Rick

      Yeah, because Nahuatl is much more useful in America and international business than English!

      • Seriously? Perhaps you did not understand what I wrote when I stated, “While learning English does help with international commerce.” Learning basic Nahuatl is about respecting the first people from Mexico, but by your tone methinks you know not respect.

        • John Linden

          I don’t think anyone has a respect issue, it’s more of a , ok, we have these native dialects but we need the people to speak the international business language, therefore the native dialects aren’t considered, maybe harsh but a reality. Anyway, regarding the main story, it’s very doubtful that Mexico can go from 2% English speakers to bilingual, ever.

          • How many people born in the US speak another language? In Mexico all University students must have a 70% level of fluency in English to obtain their title and professional credential. Below the University level, very few people speak more than a few words of English.

          • cruz_ctrl

            “In Mexico all University students must have a 70% level of fluency in
            English to obtain their title and professional credential.”

            are you sure? the article states: “…in only 48% of Mexico’s universities is English a mandatory course.”

          • The 70% is the SEP requirement for all Universities. The SEP (Secretaría de Educación Pública) approves the plan of studies for all Universities and that is the requirement. I am very familiar with it. You can go to the SEP website and download the form for registering your title and applying for your Cédula Fiscal and it is on the list of requirements. The University must issue you a certificate that is part of the documentation you deliver to register your title. Many Universities use the Toeffl.

    • Sharon

      what school do you teach at?

    • Voice Of Reason


      • John Linden

        Exactamente, que?

    • david stern

      I’m a teacher of English, agreed with 100%…..

  • Güerito

    LOL. I hate to use that, but if there’s ever an appropriate story to use it, this is it!

  • Wendy Lou
  • Güerito

    Absolutely priceless. Thanks!

  • Christopher Lynn

    Baja California I would guess has at least a 40 to 50% of the population that understands and can speak basic inglés. As well as about 80k English speakers a year deported from USA to Mexico I think the 2 percent guesstimate is low for the total Mexican population of 122 million people I would guess 10% are currently fluid in basic English..

  • Public speaking is challenging for many people. The fact that he is doing so in a foreign language demonstrates courage, regardless of what one feels about the political positions of the politician. As a foreign guest in Mexico, I do not comment on such matters. Few prominent US politicians do more than speak a few words of Spanish. As a teacher I worry less about accent, as accent is part of who the person is and where they are from. Instead, I focus on pronunciation which tends to reduce miscommunication

    • Wendy Lou

      Public speaking is indeed challenging. However, the fact that he is the president and speaks at less than an intermediate level is disheartening. He has the resources and time to have mastered English in the time he’s been in power if he so desired. Contrary to your way of teaching, pronunciation and accent reduction are key aspects of language learning with my students. To them, it is the difference between speaking English and sounding intelligent and educated when speaking English ~ their words not mine. Regardless, the purpose of my post was tongue in cheek to Mr. Pardinas’ purported observation that EFL speakers in Mexico earn more.

      • “Contrary to my way of teaching” ??? I actually do focus on pronunciation, but not on accent. Everybody speaks with an accent. My English sounds different than people from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, England, and even from other parts of the United States. The African accent with English is lovely to hear. So if a Mexican student of mine learns to speak English (including pronunciation) but still sounds like they’re Mexican, why is that wrong? They are from Mexico. Correct pronunciation reduces the communication difficulties of accent, but to advocate against accent is to advocate against local identity. English is a useful skill for international communication.

  • Thanks