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Is 'Spanglish' Proof that English has Diluted Spanish?

First Posted: Jan 15, 2014 04:04 PM EST
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"Spanglish" has been called English's assault on the Spanish language; an implementation of English in routine speech or writing of Spanish-speakers that leads to the invention of words and phrases that don't exist in English or Spanish. This upsets purists, who see the infiltration of English vocabulary, particularly in the United States, as blatant Americanization of the Spanish language. Spanish and English are used interchangeably, within the same sentence -- and the bilingual splicing of words is not unheard of. It has become a part of daily life, Latino American culture, and is promoted through major media outlets. Spanish words sometimes replace their English counterparts, and English words have crept "into everyday speech in Spain and Latin America, spreading to advertising, movies, and the other media of popular culture."

Spanish Not Always Taught in Proper Form

Latin American food such as taco, tapas, flan enchilada, flautas and burrito have made their way into America's mainstream, and the food, like the terms, have been taken into America's fold. The same can be said of other words, such as piñata and machismo. Beyond that, Spanish is being taught in classrooms all around the country, helping future generations to at least feign Spanish-speaking abilities. But classrooms don't always teach proper forms, and many don't explore the origin of words or explain exceptions to grammatical rules.

Alma Flor Ada, writer for Latinalista, wrote an article about the mixing of Spanish language, and in that article included a quick tale about how she'd submitted a story to an anthology, and upon reading it, her editor's high school-age son caught a "mistake" in her Spanish.

"[The editor] then went on to explain to me that, in Spanish, words that refer to feminine beings end with an -a not an -o, and thus, the mother in the story calling her daughter 'cariño' and not 'cariña' was a mistake detected by her son that she had hastened to correct," said Ada, Professor Emerita at the University of San Francisco, and native Spanish Speaker with a PhD in Spanish literature. "The word 'cariño' is used in Spanish as a term of endearment, similar to 'darling, love, sweetheart.' It has only one form. The word 'cariña' does not exist, that is, it has never been used by any group of speakers, anywhere."

Ada also stated that mistakes can be easily made, but correctly asserted that to believe that English-speaking high school student's Spanish knowledge is more accurate than an educated native speaker are the kind of presumptions that "generate prejudice, racism, and the stereotypes we want to eliminate." Learning and understanding language has been replaced with a desire to command language.

Spanish Has Various Forms

Spanish has various forms and come from various nations (20 countries and a "cast geographical extension"), and that tends to draw errors, stereotypes and clichés. Many Americans, even some Latino-Americans, are unaware of regional expression, and varied grammatical differences. So to use semi-familiar mutated Spanish words when speaking to non-Spanglish-speaking-Spanish-speakers promises to be confusing.

Latin America hasn't reacted like the French. France and parts of Canada have taken the bold and, perhaps, extreme step of banning or limiting English words in advertising. But, of course, Spanish and French differ greatly -- if not only for the fact that Spanish is a "true" international language, and French has declined in practice and use on an international level. More individuals speak Spanish as a first language than French or English. For that reason, alone, one can be confident that Spanish will persist, even if it is diluted by English.

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