What Is Spanglish? Is It a Real Language?
I bet you’ve heard of Spanglish, the language that mixes Spanish and English.
This hybrid has three cultures behind it, and it’s actually a response to a communication need.
Is it a real language? No! But even though Spanglish isn’t a language, it’s well known and accepted everywhere. Livin’ La Vida Loca, the famous Spanglish song by Ricky Martin, was a worldwide hit.
Read this article to find out what Spanglish is, who speaks it, and why it was created.
¡Aprendamos del espanglish!
Let’s learn about Spanglish!
What is Spanglish?
What does “Spanglish” mean?
It’s a way of speaking that mixes, interchanges, and alternates words and phrases from both Spanish and English.
Doing this comes from a need of communicating, cultural background, and force of habit.
When members of a multilingual and multicultural community switch linguistic codes of two or more languages—in this case creating Spanglish—they sometimes do it because they don’t know or remember words in the second language and are in a conversation with someone who knows both languages.
Certain words are easier in one language than in another. Some phrases in Spanish versus English are better to convey a thought, so people interchange them to avoid getting lost in translation.
Interestingly, this extends to accents and mannerisms, too.
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With enough frequency and people doing it, they create a new culture where this practice is accepted. Not speaking Spanglish would be seen as awkward.
The way people switch from one language to the other, depends on factors such as age, ethnicity, location, and socioeconomic class. This habit is becoming stronger in many parts of the world due to globalization and multiculturalization.
Spanglish is a bridge and even impulsive at times. Some people say they switch languages when they feel vulnerable, when adrenaline rises, or when they get really good or bad news.
I’m sorry por mentirte.
I’m sorry for lying to you.
¿Me prestas fifty dollars?
Can I borrow $50?
Necesito hacer mis taxes.
I need to do my taxes.
A Brief History of Spanglish
Spanglish dates back to 1848, to the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo indicated that Mexico would lose more than half of its territory (and inhabitants) to the U.S. They had to learn English but brought some Spanish words along in the process and mixed grammatical rules.
Spanglish arrived in Miami in the 60s when Cuban citizens fled their country to escape Castro’s regime. They spoke a different version of Spanish, so a different set of Spanglish words came to life.
Chicano Spanglish—Chicanos are Americans with Mexican background—and Miami Spanglish are super different.
See also: 5 Reasons Why People Code-Switch
Is Spanglish a Language?
According to Defining Spanglish: A Linguistic Categorization of Spanish-English Code-Switching in the United States, “Spanglish has no need for categorization beyond the acknowledgement that it is a vehicle for effective communication within a particular group.”
Some people refute this idea, saying it should be standardized and become rule-abiding. They think linguistic experts should analyze and categorize it, making use of spelling and grammatical regulations.
By definition, Spanglish is not a dialect either. A dialect is a language variety specific to a geographic location.
Spanglish is more of a hybrid linguistic system between two languages that derived from a growing migrant community in a place where their parents’ language is not the native one. So they are forced to learn and use both in different social settings. That’s why they fuse, mix, or alternate words and phrases from Spanish and English in the same sentence.
Not a Pidgin Language
A pidgin language is one that is created among individuals who have no linguistic common ground. They simplify and fuse their languages to fulfill their need for communication.
Spanglish is not an example of pidgin since no common language is shared. They are just parts of sentences being interchanged, conjugated or spelled with the rules of the other language.
A second reason is that people create a pidgin language because they have no other way to communicate, they don’t know the other’s language. In the case of Spanglish, people know both languages but are accustomed to mixing them.
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Who speaks Spanglish? Around 40 million people speak Spanglish in the U.S. Many of them live in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and San Antonio.
Most of the people who speak this “bridge language” live in the United States and are or were raised by native Spanish speakers. They speak fluent English and use it most of the time, at school and among friends. They also speak Spanish, their parents’ language, so they’re prone to mix them.
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Spanglish Sentence Examples
Sometimes Spanglish speakers also interchange and combine grammatical and syntax rules to a point where almost every word in a sentence is wrong in both languages.
Watchea como parqueo mi trucka.
Watch how I park my truck.
Chequea si estoy clickeando el botón correctly.
Check if I am clicking the button right.
Mopea el floor por favor.
Mop the floor please.
Vamos temprano a la escuela because last time you were late y no te dejaron entrar.
Let’s leave early for school because last time you were late and they didn’t let you in.
Other examples of Spanish words are
- “aseguranza”—“insurance” in English and seguro in Spanish
- “bloque”—“block” in English and cuadra in Spanish
Most people who speak Spanglish can also stop doing it. Have you noticed how you change your way of speaking when your family is visiting or you see your childhood friends?
It depends on the social setting, just like when you switch from a familiar to a professional environment. We do it as a technique of our unconscious self to fit in, to make us feel like we belong. It’s like having a secret handshake.
Do You Want To Learn Spanish?
Spanglish is not only a bridge between two cultures but of a whole different one in itself. It is a reflection of the Chicano identity, of people whose mix of beliefs, languages, food, traditions, art, and experiences make for a vibrant community.
To learn more about this fascinating culture, learn Spanish! It enhances your life, as it can help you get a cooler, better-paid job, and make traveling easier by empowering you to know more cultures and connect to more people.
Did you know there are 580 million Spanish speakers around the world? According to CNN, there are 41 million in the U.S. alone. It is the language with the most native speakers around the world after Hindi and Chinese.
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