March 28th, 2011
Spanglish: “Right” Or “Wrong”?

The fact that we even ask this question shows our prejudice. Language, like all things, is continually growing and changing. “Proper” Spanish and English neither came about in a single night or from a single creator and they both had mothers from which they evolved to become what they are today…so called “Castilian Spanish” or “Proper English.”

Spanglish may not be accepted in scholarly writing, but it does have a place in American culture and obviously has been useful to many individuals, or it wouldn’t have evolved as it has.  Language grows in response to our need for more words to express ourselves.  Near our borders, where cultures and languages mingle, what’s wrong with each one bending a little to allow the other?  In border regions in foreign countries it’s common to find “mixed” words and we’re open to regional dialects in bilingual Latin America, so why not here on our own borders?

It saddens me that we often fail to accept things in the beginnings of their evolution. It seems that no matter the topic, we seem to struggle with change. We are compelled to sweep everything into neat little categories and language is no exception.  Spanglish, Creole, Ebonics…whether we see fit to accept them or not, are all valid dialects in their own right.  They serve their communities through the creation of words that address the linguistic needs of the people.  Now some are probably looking at these three examples and thinking, “These are made up dialects from people who lack understanding of their own language“.  But remember that Spanish is derived from Latin and English found it’s roots in Germanic language.   Both evolved out of necessity and continue to thrive today simply because they were the ones that won the colonization game. There is no one language that is better than another and dialects will thrive as long as they remain useful.

In Laredo, where my husband grew up, Spanglish is a dialect that has done just that…created words in order to become more useful for it’s community. Words like “troque” (truck) and “lonche” (lunch) can be found on professional ads for local business, in newspapers and magazines. They are a distinct part of the culture in Laredo and demonstrate the seamless mixing of both languages into one, more useful and complete, dialect. One that is represented in border towns across the country.

In college I took “Proper Spanish” and I can tell you that there is also stereotyping from both Spaniards and Latinos about what constitutes an “authentic” word. Castellanos will likely assure you that there is no such word as “bistek” or “champu” and yet, here we are, learning them in “Proper Spanish” courses. Now, why is it that some words are excepted into Spanish by the majority of speakers and others are not?  The simple answer is time and distance.  We need time to become accepting and distance to demonstrate the number of people who find such words useful. We will continue to speak Spanglish until it is no longer useful, and if it becomes more useful, we may ALL be speaking it!

Chantilly Patiño writes the blog Bicultural Mom, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @biculturalmom.

[Image By News Taco]

6 thoughts on “Spanglish: “Right” Or “Wrong”?

  1. Pingback: Spanglish: “Right” Or “Wrong”? | Bicultural Mom Guest Posts |

  2. Pingback: Spanglish: “Right” or “Wrong”? | Bicultural Mom

  3. the properties of our spanglish down at the south, and not the Laredo side, but more to the south, deeper south! Brownsville south, is under other regime, we follow the cultural background that Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon have, both states of mexico whose influx into this texas region is way bigger and stronger. Laredo is influenced by Cohahuila Mexico and they also have a different way of speaking, otro acento.. culturalmetne hablando… we are only responding, like you said, to the demand in ways we can express ourselves. This is something that you cannot teach in schools, but it is of major importance so you could just move around the valley.. you want to eat the real food, and not the chains, sorry but you gotta speak spanglish, you want to buy the best veggies and oranges there are, sorry but you must speak Valluks!’ I for example are from Monterrey Nuevo Leon, born and raised, but the roots are well stuck on the other side of the river, either bravo or grande, mi familia is from the Houston area, and due to the major mobilization that happen during the draft years, a lot of families moved down south. Mi abue’ was one of them. El lenguaje que yo escribo puede ser de los dos lados, pero para mi es el pacto que hago todos los dias con mis antepasados. No puedo negar la existencia de la revoltura tremenda que es el spanglish, o hablar en codes, like the language teachers call it. The smoothness that I find every time, my word just fly out of my mouth describing talking and expressing en ingles on espanol, me hace sentir bien, sin borders, ni migras, no one can tell, if you are from here or there, if you want to….. i do it all the time.. me expreso de una forma peculiarmente intelectual, y puedo describir con los mismos modales en espanol, como en ingles.. los mismo adjetivos, palabras descriptivas.. pero eso no es YO en su totalidad.. it is just a sympathy vote to those that still deny the importance of our words, and the way we express, since it does not hold and meets the intellectual, and designed values, “los inteligentes” have about language.

    para mi es PLUMA, no boligrafo….

    Luis Vargas sorry for my run-ons … i just wrote this too quick.. adios. y que sigan existiendo gente que describa la belleza de ser frontera, de entender la palabra migra, narcos, troca, mistiear, prender el bote, parquear, ..

    • It’s great to hear how many more subtle distinctions exist between border towns…yeah, that accents and words used really do vary! Great point! To each their own and we all have a right to speak what feels natural to us. Language snobs may shudder, but there is a large population that identifies with so-called “made-up” words. Thanks for the comment and for demonstrating what Spanglish is all about! =)

  4. Great article! I’ve taken Spanish in school since the 7th grade, lived in Spain for a while, and have numerous Latino friends here in Texas. I love the language and I try to use it frequently around my 6-year-old daughter as well. But I often feel insecure about my limitations in speaking Spanish (which ends up being Spanglish), especially in the presence of those for whom Spanish is their “first” language.

    • Thanks for the comment Chad. My husband has struggled with his limitations too and when you live in a border town it becomes second nature to mix words, since your faced with these situations daily. It hurts me that some speakers choose to bash Spanglish because I feel it’s an important part of U.S. culture right now…and obviously needed in border towns for bilingual communication. I think it’s great that you love the language and I hope you never let anyone stop you from that. :)

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