Monday, February 10, 2014

Spanglish 101

The moment I step into my mother’s house, something happens to my brain.  My conversation switches back and forth between English and Spanish. There was a day when I could speak Spanish throughout the whole conversation, but since I only use it at my mother’s, I have forgotten some of it and I struggle to remember certain words.
My husband called this mixture of my two languages Spanglish and I took offense.
My parents took great care to teach me and my siblings how to speak Spanish correctly when we were children, and often when I speak it with someone other than my family, they notice that I speak differently than most locals.
I take pride in that, except I do struggle with my Spanish, and my husband is right – if moving back and forth between the two languages is Spanglish, then I do speak it, but don’t tell him that.
What I am really doing is code switching and it is a common phenomenon among all bilingual speakers, regardless the language. Any two languages that have some syntactical similarity are open to code switching. What I try to shy away from is mistranslating or adapting/hybridizing words that do not exist in either language. I call those Spanglish words, and they are what my parents tried to weed out of our Spanish lessons.
Spanglish to me is when someone thinks they are speaking in Spanish by adding a common Spanish noun ending, like the letter O, to a word and it is instantly Spanish. Words like car + o = carro, or bird + o = birdo. Stuff like this is funny (to a point.)  
Examples of each:
          An English N-V-N sentence:     
                    I bought a ticket.
          Correct Spanish translation:
                    Compré un boleto.
          Correct Code Switched version:
                    Compré un ticket.
          Incorrect Spanglish/hybridized Spanish version:
                    I bought un tiquete.  Or Compré un tiquete.
The USA is made up of many cultures, ethnicities, and heritages.  We come with many languages.  As our first languages mixes with American English, it assimilates into a mixture of both.  In my case, (HoneyBunch is right, darn it!) I speak Spanglish.


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