Publication details [#63120]

Hepford, Elizabeth A. 2017. Language for profit: Spanish–English bilingualism in Lowe's Home Improvement. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 20 (6) : 652–666.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher


The USA is generally depicted as a country dominated by the ideology of monolingualism, yet such a portrayal misses the recent changes in the marketplace brought on by globalization. Duchêne (2009) and Heller (2010) argue that in the global economy, multilingualism has become a commodity adding value to the product and a business strategy opening up niche markets in an oversaturated marketplace. In the USA, Spanish has become such a commodity – on TV, in billboards, in ATMs, and in the Lowe's Home Improvement chain. This article debates a case study of a business in a free market economy valorizing language for purely economic gain. Lowe's was the first home improvement chain to react to an increase in Hispanic home ownership implementing a nationwide English–Spanish packaging and signage policy in 2005. This study explains the company's motivation for the policy and discloses adjustments made at the local level in response to the local environment. The results display that English remains the dominant language at all levels and compliance to policy varies depending on the amount of corporate involvement, the intent of the policy, and the location of the store.