Bilingual is Better

Photo credit: blmurch

Last week I was pretty taken aback when I heard someone say that “el Spanglish es una aberración” (literally an aberration, an outrage). The craziest thing is that this person — an old colleague and friend of my husband’s who is Argentinian, but has lived in Miami for a long time —  said this as he admitted to using it himself!

Then I realized I got exactly what he meant because I used to be one of them: the anti-Spanglish, anti code-switching type. And, apparently, I was not alone.

One of the most respected scholars, experts and authors in the realm of bilingualism, and a bilingual himself, François Grosjean, wrote about this very topic just last week in his blog on Psychology Today:

Even though it is widespread, code-switching has been criticized by some who feel that it is done out of pure laziness and that it is a grammarless mixture of two languages. Many pejorative names have been used to characterize this bilingual form of communication such as Tex-Mex and Franglais. Even the word “mixing” has now taken on negative overtones. One consequence of this is that some bilinguals never code-switch and may look down upon others who do, while others restrict it to a situation in which they will not be stigmatized for doing so.

For me, it wasn’t so much that it bothered me when others code-switched, it had more to do with my own use of Spanglish – as I’ve written about before. Sometimes I still think it’s amazing that I used to think that way.

Luckily, one of the grandest things the SpanglishBaby community has brought into my life, is my own understanding and acceptance of what it really means, at least for me, to live bilingually and biculturally. I’ve finally learned to embrace the fact that I feel completely comfortable speaking both English and Spanish and that both of them — and the cultures that come with each — define me. I absolutely love that if I’m with someone who feels the same way, I can go back and forth between languages, sometimes mid-sentence, with a comforting ease that makes the conversation that much better!

So, of course, I went on to share all I’ve learned about bilingualism, mixing languages and code-switching with my husband’s colleague. After he listened to me a while, he was genuinely interested in what I was saying and told me he had never really looked at code-switching that way. Even more amazingly, he confessed that code-switching actually helps him when his stuttering gets out of control. In other words, if he’s speaking to another bilingual in, say, Spanish and he starts stuttering, he’ll switch to English to say the word he’s stuck on and then get back to the original language of their conversation! Absolutely amazing, ¿no creen?

Well, I wanted to gauge what your own thoughts are on Spanglish and code-switching, so I went to our Facebook page to ask and this is what you told us:

It looks like one of the main things is trying to figure out the definition of Spanglish or code-switching. I don’t say troca for truck either, but I do go back and forth between languages — not ALL the time. Whenever it happens, it just comes out my mouth naturally. Here’s some more:

So, what do YOU think? We’d love to continue the conversation and learn from what you have to say, so please share your thoughts on this topic!

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