It’s been a while since the last time we took a look at the media buzz regarding bilingualism. In the past, we’ve let you know our reaction to newspaper articles, blog posts or videos related to bilingual education, Latino culture and the Spanish language. Now, we constantly share them on our Facebook page and strike up a conversation there.
But what was in the news last week deserves a more in-depth look. The Los Angeles Times, printed three op-ed articles about bilingual education in California, its successes and failures. Always a volatile subject, the pieces received tons of comments from those in favor of bilingual education to those completely opposed. Some of the arguments were the same old story we hear all the time from those who believe bilingualism is not necessary in a monolingual country whose only language should be English. On Saturday, they compiled four of the longer responses to each of the op-ed pieces and shared them with their readers here. You’ll find links to each of the pieces that originated the responses in that same article. I was particularly impressed with the opinion from the son of Taiwanese immigrants who regrets not being taught his parents native language – especially after traveling the world and realizing that pretty much the Unites States stands alone in its zeal to be a monolingual country.
The other news I’d like to share with you, is that last Wednesday SpanglishBaby was featured in the blog USA español, which is part of the well-respected, Spaniard newspaper, El País. Ana did an excellent job answering questions for the article, written by Cristina F. Pereda, which was entitled “El Spanglish es cosa de bilingües” and it had to do with the use of Spanglish by bilinguals in this country. Some of the points made in the article, we’ve explored in the past, particularly in this post about code-switching and the reasons bilinguals do it. As I said at the time, I’d always been one of those people who firmly opposed the use of Spanglish, especially when it came to my own usage. I used to try to force myself to stick to just one language, even when I knew the conversation would flow much smoother if I didn’t try to go contra la corriente. It was only in the last few years that I realized that code-switching – or using Spanglish – is an intrinsic part of being bilingual. (By the way, defining Spanglish is no easy task and I’m convinced many of the negative feelings toward this linguistic practice stem from this difficulty.)
The El País article starts by mentioning words like “carpeta” and “rufo,” the type of sounds that make me cringe whenever I hear them, especially when they come from my daughter’s own mouth – as I’ve written about in the past. And then goes on to explain what Spanglish means, according to sociolinguist David Divita: “It’s not making up words like rufo or adapting bad translations because you don’t know the original term. More and more, the argument is getting stronger that Spanglish comes from being bilingual, from the knowledge of two languages, and not from the lack of command of one of them.”
If you read in Spanish, I suggest you head over there so you can finish the whole piece and then take a look at the comments left by readers (and maybe even leave your own). There’s more than 50 comments right now and they range from those who are completely opposed to it to those who use it themselves and understand how impossible it would be for bilinguals who live between two worlds and two languages not to partake in this linguistic practice.
Have you run into any great articles about bilingualism lately? Please do share.
Hmmm..I’ll have to read the original El Pais article again and mull this all over…
I totally get the code-switching thing; I do it myself. If I’m speaking to someone else who speaks Spanish, I’d rather say that a piece of cake is “empalagoso” instead of “rich” because I think that conveys my intended meaning more accurately (though I can’t even begin to explain why that is), or that a person is a “bofe” instead of an obnoxious person, which doesn’t seem to carry the same vitriol, LOL.
Now, I’m no linguist, but it does seem to me that people DO use made-up Spanglish words (what else to call them?) on many occasions, not because they are more effective in meaning, but because they simply don’t know the word in Spanish (in this case). I think of my own younger siblings, for example, who say “parking” in otherwise full-Spanish sentences because they don’t know the word ‘aparcamiento.” Or one of my other favorites, “snack,” because they lack the word “merienda.” Of course, here’s where things get complicated. It’s not always an either/or situation. They don’t know the word “merienda,” but even I would say that “snack” and “merienda” don’t seem equal to each other, at least not to me. “Merienda” sounds more like an entire mid-afternoon small meal and “snack” sounds more like a handful of crackers. So, wow, it really does get confusing, ha?
I like to make a distinction between these two things, but I can’t say 100% that I’m opposed to Spanglish – mostly, I find it funny. I’m reminded of the Que Pasa USA episode (has anyone else seen this show?) where Carmencita, the American daughter, doesn’t know the word “avergonzada,” and instead uses the Spanglish-ized version of “embarassed,” which sounds a lot like “embarazada,” or pregnant. You can imagine how the Cuban parents and grandparents reacted at hearing their little girl telling them she was pregnant!
Lourdes, your first paragraph explains exactly what code-switching is all about. No one who speaks both English and Spanish would be able to deny that empalagoso is a much better way to describe a cake than rich!
As for what you say about made-up words, I’m 100% with you, but as I said in the post, one of the most difficult things about Spanglish is how to define it. I don’t necessarily think that making up words because you don’t know the correct word in Spanish is Spanglish, but that is exactly what most people think. In fact, we’ve actually heard that some people are turned off when they hear the name of this blog because they think we’re referring to people who speak using words like rufo and carpeta! A lot of these people are educators…
Finally, I remember perfectly well the Qué Pasa USA? episode you’re referring to… that was one funny, funny show!
I’m not turned off by the name at all! But, if making up these words isn’t Spanglish (and actually, my examples were not good ones because “snack” and “parking” are words in English, not made up words like “rufo;” in that case, they were more code-switching that anything else, although NOT because the meaning was better conveyed but because the vocabulary was lacking), what is?
I guess I’m seeing in various places that code-switching is being = to Spanglish…but I can’t wrap my head around it! Maybe I need to get with the times.
Que es rufo? Is that a California thing?
Funny you used the words snack vs merienda as an example. As hard as I try, ‘merienda’ does not roll out of my tongue. My daughter only has ‘snacks.’
I’ll take full responsibility for it!
I’m perfectly guilty myself, with who knows how many words !
Actually, I’m really struggling with being consistent with OPOL mainly because my Spanish vocabulary has really dwindled. I’m really trying not to interject English words (or Spanglish?), but that means I have to keep a Spanish/English dictionary out all the time because so often I just can’t think of the word for the thing my son is pointing to in a book…of course, it’s much easier to switch to English at those times, which is quite the slippery slope. Sigh.
I think merienda sounds different to me because growing up in Spain, a merienda was so much larger than than a “snack,” I think because we ate dinner so late, so you really needed something substantial in between!
I use OPOL too. How old is your son? When I don’t know a word in Spanish I tell my kids just that: No se cual es la palabra en Ingles. When I find the word, then I try to introduce it and use it a lot. It took me forever to learn “dragonfly”! Now I need to figure out how to say “firefly” in Spanish. Anyone??
Also, do you have a Spanish playgroup? That is a great way to encourge you to keep speaking Spanish and for you to expand your vocabulary–especially if your playgroup consists of a myriad of Latinos!
I’m not sure that “aparcamiento” is not a Spanglish word. “parking” to me is “estacionamiento”. Estacionarse= to park
Interestingly enough, both aparcar and aparcamiento are accepted by the Real Academia Española. I don’t think I’d ever be able to use them myself, but I’ve enough Spaniard friends to know this are the words they use…
Interesting…I don’t think I’ve ever used estacionamento…but I sometimes get confused between Spain and Cuba words because we were Spaniards living with Cuban parents. Perhaps one group uses one or the other?
Well, one learns something new everyday! I’m from Mexico, so it’s “estacionamiento” etc. And today as I was looking at one of my children’s Spanish books, “Mis Primeras Palabras con Pegatinas” (an Usborne book) I saw “aparcamiento”!!
So how do you say, “I’m going to park my car.”? If I said, “Voy a parquear mi carro.” I’d get ridiculed for not knowing how to speak Spanish.
Actually, in El Salvador the word is ‘Parquear’ That’s the only word I knew growing up and it had nothing to do with Spanglish.
Anytime I used it in México I would get teased for being a “Pocha.” Ay, makes you love Spanish and it’s idiosyncrasies even more.
Having the opportunity to be in a bilingual classroom, from the age of 8 to 11, was the best thing that ever happened to me, personally, culturally and professionally. Although I was born in this country, my parents returned to their country of origin when I was almost 6. Two years later, we were back to the US and I had completely forgotten the English I knew. Those 3 years of bilingual education taught me how to read and write in Spanish, and gave me the opportunity to be immersed in my cultural heritage at school. I will forever be grateful for the bilingual education I received. The benefits to the child and society are unmeasurable.
You were so lucky it happened to you at the age of 6. You were still within that “critical window” to grasp the language and speak it with no accent.
I can remember sitting across from two ladies at an airport and listening to them code-switch. I was highly amused when I heard one of them telling the other about how “una muchacha estaba walkiando a su casa” when a big tree fell next to her – or something like that. Walkiando? And I totally knew what she meant
It amazes me that our country is so far behind the rest of the world in this regard. Almost everywhere else, children are taught a second language from the beginning so that they can excel and compete successfully on a global scale. It is such a great gift to be able to speak more than one language and it is such a shame that this country punishes people who do.
Definitions are hard…is “walkiando,” which is not a Spanish word but something else altogether code-switching? I thought code-switching referred to using an actual word in one language within a sentence in another, no?
Oops. I think you’re right. I think what they were doing has been coined “borrowing.” Is this right, Ana/Roxana?
Yes, it’s called “borrowing.”
Roxana explains it really well in this post:
Just imagine what things were like in England in about the year 1150. There was an emerging class of people who were somewhere in the middle, between the natives speaking Germanic Old English and the Norman French conquerors/nobility who insisted on their language. That’s where our modern English language comes from. It all started as a mish-mosh.
Deep in the mountains of southern Mexico where my husband is from, people who have never spoken English (or wanted to) and have never set foot in the USA may say either troca or camioneta, either carro or coche.
Here in Houston people say either laundromat or washeteria. This word is used by the majority population, non-Hispanic and with no particular interest in speaking Spanish. And of course, we have the RODEO…
Examples are everywhere. Maybe a couple generations into the future we may all be sitting in rocking chairs remembering what it was like when Spanglish was a new thing.
And what is wrong with that?
Puerto Ricans are highly known to speak Spanglish…even on the island. I grew up hearing that we didn’t know how to speak Spanish properly, so I’m glad that the stigma is being lifted some-what.
I’m guilty of many Spanglish sentences and have used many of the words you referenced, though, never rufo amazingly. I actually say techo.
Ufff…I’m relieved you don’t say “Rufo!”
I believe the main concern the Spanish-language purists have is that these “borrowed” words are being integrated into everyday vocabulary and the new generation is absorbing them as normal. I have to admit I fringe as that as well, but also understand it’s part of the evolution of language and you can’t be stringent about that.
I agree about Spanglish being a language that comes out from knowing both languages and being bilingual. I also cringe at Rufo, carpeta , yarda, etc. Here in LA we have so many of those!! And in my work as an interpreter is “desesperante” sometimes because if I translate the correct word like alfombra o patio and people actually wont understand me!! I hope my kids learn them both and learn to speak a good Spanglish!
Interesting. Growing up I found my self being very strict about what I said or was said to me. If spoken to me in English, I would only respond in English and if spoken to in Spanish I would only respond in Spanish. It would irritate me so much if I heard words said incorrectly, like: brekear (for frenar), pushar (for empujar), parquear and so on… I’ve noticed though, that as I’ve gotten older I am not as irritated by it, but have learned to understand that a new language is being born. And yes, even I fall into the Spanglish trap, like saying “snack” for merienda.
I was born and raise in Mexico and I live down there until 9 years ago. I remember how offended and furious I felt every time somebody would use Spanglish in Mexico.
Now I live in USA, now I get it, I switch languages all the time LOL now I’m the one seeing my family’s faces when I cannot say a word in Spanish and I say it in English, funny!!
Me gusto como Ana Flores lo puso “Poder acceder a cualquier idioma en un instante exige mucha flexibilidad mental”….estoy de acuerdo con ella!