Spanglish is the result of of centuries of cultural exchange, but some people are still against it.
When I was a teenager, I used to work as a cashier at a souvenir store in one of the busiest tourist areas in Las Vegas. There, I met and became friends with this East L.A. girl who made my shifts a lot easier. We shared many similarities: we were both children of Latino immigrants whose English was not perfect, and we were both loud Spanglish speakers. “Cállate ya, you crazy chola, mejor ponte a trabajar!” I would yell at her whenever I needed some silence to concentrate. “Make me, wey,” she would reply. We got along pretty well and our fluent Spanglish seemed to never bother anyone, or at least that's what I thought until one day the store manager called us into his office and warned us: “Quit speaking Spanglish, or I’ll write you both up.”
I never imagined that our mix of languages would offend anyone, but according to the store manager, the other employees felt uncomfortable with our unrecognized, fused vocabulary. The same thing happened to me at home. My dad would call me “mamón” (stuck-up) whenever I'd say something in English to my brothers and friends. Spanglish, then, seemed to be a forbidden dialect only people from my generation understood – and so, I was careful not to use it with everyone.
As I grew older, I realized that Spanglish is the beautiful product of a clash of cultures that takes place in a country with a big flow of immigrants. It is not a form of resistance from the Latino community against the English-speaking nation, nor a virus that’s slowly killing the essence of Spanish by replacing some words with chicanadas like “marketa,” “troca,” and “quitear.” Spanglish is the representation of a minority group that seeks their rightful recognition in a country and refuses to abandon their Hispanic heritage by continuing to fuse the two languages that make them who they are. At the same time, Spanglish is a symbol of the existence of Latin Americans in America –as crazy as that may sound– since the majority of the continent speaks Spanish and it doesn't seem strange to me that people would speak it in the U.S.
Of course, you are likely to disagree with the use of Spanglish in America if you are unable to speak it –and I don’t blame you, I would be jealous too if I wasn't able to speak it– but I wouldn’t go around telling people to stop using it. On the contrary, Spanglish expands our knowledge and speaks of our background. It doesn't distort either English or Spanish: many of us out there feel very comfortable in both languages and speak them fluently. Nonetheless, Spanglish is rooted in our flesh and bone, so here are a few reasons to start recognizing it as an official language, or at least to stop stigmatizing it.
It represents who we are.
Some folks in the U.S. would wish for us to only speak English because it's supposed to represent American culture. This idea has convinced some people to stop speaking Spanish and even stop passing it down to the next generations. Of course, it is your prerogative whether to pass it down or not, but my many years of experience living with other Latinos have taught me that people whose parents decided not to teach them Spanish experience a lack of connection with their own roots. Although they embrace their Latino identity, their lack of Spanish skills usually makes them feel less integrated to the Latino community somehow. Nonetheless, they aren’t, and we will always accept them regardless of how fluent in either language they are.
Some things just sound better in one language.
As much as some people might want to speak only one language, the truth is, some things can't always be translated. When people attempt to translate every single thing from one language to the other, it just sounds weird. Here is an example, try translating these words into Spanish: sandwich, bully, software, password, tweet, etc. Although they do have a translation, they sound odd, and many people in Spanish-speaking countries prefer the English words because they sound cooler. Now, do the same thing with these Spanish words: tortillas, sobremesa, compadre, pan dulce, and champurrado... It's not easy, right? Now you see why we can't stop mixing these languages?
Spanglish helps us communicate better.
We have to understand that some people didn’t learn a language the same way others did. While in America most Latino children learn English in school, they are only able to learn Spanish through their relatives’ conversations and TV shows. It’s unfair to expect from them the same literacy level in Spanish that a college graduate in Latin America would have. Latinos whose fluency of Spanish is almost academic often mock those whose Spanish isn’t perfect – completely disregarding how these folks came to learn it. The beauty of Spanglish is that whenever you don’t know a word in one language, you can always use it in the other, making it easier to communicate.
It's part of America's history.
It's common knowledge (although some people seem to have forgotten) that much of the U.S. territory once belonged to Mexico, a Spanish-speaking nation. And this territory is where most of the Latino population is currently concentrated at. I’m talking about California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah and other parts of some states, which were once acquired by the U.S. under the unfair Treaty of Guadalupe. In addition, there's the island of Puerto Rico, where Spanish is still spoken by the majority of the population. Thus, it was only a matter of time before Spanglish emerged a main form of communication in this nation.
We won’t stop speaking it.
As much as people try to persuade us to stop using Spanglish, either by telling us about the "consequences" of its use in either language or the alleged "horrific" sounds it makes, we won't stop using it. This isn't a form of rebellion where we're trying to impose on society, nor a resistance movement against the rest of the nation. We just love speaking Spanglish and have always done so, and guess what? We won't stop using it because it's part of our everyday life.
Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that the official language of the nation is English. In fact, there is no official language in the U.S. English is the most spoken one, followed by Spanish. Why is it so hard to accept the legitimacy of Spanglish as a language? People continue to stigmatize its use without thinking that it belongs to an entire culture of Americans with Latino roots. We will continue to embrace it, as well as defending it based on the reasons mentioned above. So, do you need another reason para hablar Spanglish?
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Cover image: @yoshi_travel