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U.S. Spanish

In 40 years, the United States will be the country with the most Spanish speakers in the world. It currently more people speak Spanish than in Spain or Argentina, and only  second to Mexico in quantity. Immigrants from 20 countries converge with different versions of Spanish and, according to experts, comprise the most important experimental language laboratory.

In a post in Revista Ñ from March 18, the author notes that “few things say more about human beings, their progress and their barbaric and inevitable mutations, as changes in language and speech. Each linguistic interpretation holds a way of seeing the world, of understanding politics.” On the same note, the secretary of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language, José Ignacio Covarrubias, ponders with the president of another language academy about this “laboratory”, the most important one in Spanish and for the future of the language. Both scholars believe that much of the future of the Spanish language will be shaped in America.

The article summarizes the history of Spanish. Born in a small area of the Peninsula, it expanded throughout Spain, became the official language, and spread in America with the Spanish colonization. By the time the country achieved political independence they were irreversibly bound to Spanish. They are declarations of independence, constitutions and laws written in Spanish, which is now by spoken almost half a billion people. In the U.S., the Hispanic community surpasses in size the African-Americans community and is the first minority with more Spanish speakers than Spain. In other words, you can travel from Tierra del Fuego to Canada without changing language.

In the Obama administration, the  is the reference point for Spanish in the U.S. government. In addition to regulating Spanish publications in the official government website, the Academy broadcasts television messages regarding the correct usage of language in their attempt to determine “the rules of correct Spanish.” It also seeks to “guide Spanish speakers on how to speak correctly” and “promote bilingualism, so that people learn properly both languages.” Although the Academy also tried to ensure that none of the Spanish variants override the each other, Mexican idioms are well established along the southern border and other forms, such as Cuban and Dominican, have also gained ground.

Spanglish is growing among the immigration population, and just as we did in this blog, the author of the article asks: “Is it a setback, a sign of vitality, an inevitable process?” Covarrubias says: “It is a clash of two languages. Spanish is the first language after English. There is an inevitable clash, such as in Portuñol, the Franglais, and we have the Spanglish. Experts define it as a Spanish dialect, sometimes it is due to ignorance, sometimes it is done for convenience.” Covarrubias also specifies the task of the Academy: “We play a normative role; we only make suggestions because nobody owns the language. We have to accept the rules imposed by usage.”

These scholars do not seem to be concerned about the language distortions made by young people who are influenced by new technologies, abbreviations, usual chat phrases, and other, since they are considered to be slightly different from educational deterioration. Rather than describing a reality, educators worry that young people are able to integrate into society and are able to say what they want with precision and firmness, which is essential in a democracy.

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