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Spanglish: The Dreaded Future

I recently wrote about the growing Spanish market in the United States and prior to that I discussed the intent of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE) to improve Spanish use in this country. I also commented on the mix of English with other languages spoken in the film “Code 46“, which was a good foreshadowing, in my opinion, of the future. And, in passing, I mention the existence of Spanglish, but never stopped to analyze …

What is Spanglish, really?

According to Wikipedia, “Spanglish refers to the code-switching of English and Spanish, in the speech of people who are bilingual, or whose normal language is different from that of the country where they live” that is often confused with the use of Anglicisms in Spanish. For Ilan Stavans, controversial intellectual, essayist, lexicographer, cultural commentator, translator, storyteller, television show host, professor and scholar, Spanglish speakers use three strategies: [1] a mixture of codes (code mixing) and code changes (code switching) [2], automatic and simultaneous translation and [3] inventing new words. Stavans is also Chief Editor of the Enciclopedia Latina, which is dedicated to all aspects of Latino life in North America, author of several books on this particular language phenomenon and on the translation of Don Quixote into Spanglish. (For more information about Spanglish and Ilan Stavans go to Wikipedia).

A common thing in Spanglish is to confuse the meaning between Spanish and English words that sound alike (false friends). An example of this would be the phrase ” vacunar la carpeta” (in English: “vacuum the carpet”) instead of “aspirar/pasar la aspiradora a la alfombra”. Another example of this type of speech would be a sentence in which both languages are used: I’m sorry I cannot attend next week’s meeting porque tengo una obligación de negocios en Boston, pero espero que I’ll be back for the meeting the week after.

Much has been written on the subject. In the blog Voces en español (Voices in Spanish) the author states: “In my opinion, all human expression is inherently valid, simply because it is manifested in a place and circumstance. However, when Spanglish gains ground in Spanish, to the point where Spanish speakers forget and confuse the syntax and grammar of their own language, in all its forms, our language is impoverished, while Spanglish is enriched.
Other sites, such as Arte y cultura logia El Potosí, are strongly against allowing the progress of “this hybrid form of language. They do not realize they are being linguistically subjected by imperialism. It is a form of invasion and exclusion that the speaker voluntarily accepts and, with this simple fact, begins to lose the original culture bequeathed by their ancestors.” In a different site, which from its title indicates its “opposition”, Di NO al spanglish“,(Say NO to Spanglish) the author notes, however, that although some commonly used words in English have a correct translation which use we should prefer, it is difficult to forgo the use of certain terms in English such as blogger, as the translation into Spanish ( bitacorador) “sounds bad”.
There are other sites, like hispanicLA, which include a good language analysis, history and several quotes, that state: “we do not suggest here that Spanish-or otherwise Spanglish, in the future -must be adopted as a second language or official U.S. sublanguage. At least not yet. Our purpose is to suggest that the harmonious coexistence of two or more official languages in one country is possible.”
There is also a debate as to whether we are at the birth of a new language or a new kind of slang in the translation forum English Spanish Translator Org, titled “Spanglish vs. slang”, which also cites interesting examples of terms and phrases in “Spanglish” such as “exitar la autopista” (exitar for exit), “dropear” los estudios (dropear for drop) and the literal phrase “Dame una quebrada” (for” Give me a break “).
I conclude this article by adhering to professor Stavans’ own opinion (cited in the site Origen y perspectiva…) that “language can not be legislated. It is a free and democratic expression of the human spirit. And so, every attack against it is a stimulus, because nothing is more inviting than what is forbidden. “
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