Spanglish: something to avoid or unavoidable?

If you are fluent in both English and Spanish, chances are you have used or at least heard of expressions…
Spanglish: something to avoid or unavoidable?

If you are fluent in both English and Spanish, chances are you have used or at least heard of expressions that pertain to the linguistic phenomenon called Spanglish. “Llamar para atrás”, “parquear”, chequear”, “troca”, “marketa”, and “lonche” are all words or phrases that derive from the mixing of the two languages in question. It is not necessarily slang nor is it code switching but rather a confluence of the two languages, many times consisting of English cognates that interact with Spanish words to yield a new verb, noun, or concept. While many experts agree that this innovative form of expression is an unnecessary distortion of Spanish, many others believe that it is a powerful tool that allows us to communicate more effectively.

The so called purists or fundamentalists denounce this type of cross-contamination and call for a concerted effort to preserve the integrity of the Spanish language. Roberto González Echevarría, for example, sees Spanglish as a political issue that relates to “la marginalizacion, no la adquisición de derechos” because English metaphorically invades Spanish in an act of imperialism. His rhetorical question sums up what many detractors wonder: “¿por qué rendirse al inglés cuando existen palabras y frases españolas perfectamente adecuadas en otros campos?” In other words, speaking in this way can only be attributed to mental laziness.

In contrast, many supporters embrace Spanglish’s cross-fertilization potential. These individuals acknowledge that language is a dynamic, living thing in evolution, which means that words are “born” every day. As Kim Potowski states, “el préstamo de hoy puede encontrarse en el diccionario de mañana, por mucho que se pelee en su contra”. Because many latinos, particularly those of first and later generations, lack confidence in their spoken Spanish, speaking Spanglish empowers them to be able to cover more linguistic ground. In contrast to González Echevarría, Bill Santiago in his article, “Pardon my Spanglish–¡porque because!”, asserts that Spanglish is, in actuality, very pro-Spanish.

Whether or not one uses Spanglish in daily conversations is ultimately a personal choice. While for some it may sound inappropriate, especially if the word in question already has an equivalency in Spanish, for others it can also be very useful, especially when engaging others who rely on it to greater degrees or coming from those individuals who simply feel more comfortable using it. In the end, one could argue that both languages benefit from this linguistic synthesis and as such we should accept Spanglish with brazos and minds abiertos.