Bilingualism in the USA: Spanglish is Here to Stay
March 25, 2015
Spanglish, defined by Amherst College Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture Ilan Stavans as “the verbal encounter between Anglo and Hispano civilizations,” is a defining feature of the language of the U.S. Hispanic population, estimated at over 50 million.
Spanglish is abhorred by some, such as writer Octavio Paz, who famously called it a “gross deformation,” but seen by others as a positive language change. Columbia University Professor Gustavo Pérez Firmat states that “Latino literature is already making the English language vibrate in a different way, and therein lies its revolutionary, active force.”
Despite popular belief that Spanglish “is haphazard and hence of little value,” the dialect has been found by linguistic researchers Rothman and Rell (2005) to be extremely systematic and structured. They explain code-switching between Spanish and English as a sign of highly proficient bilingual individuals and describe its use as a way for a specific group of people to communicate more effectively through the choice of one language over another.
Spanglish serves as a badge of membership to a group that has the ability to play with language in a specific way. Immigrants of all nationalities are now more connected to their homeland than ever before thanks to the speed and ease of communication and travel.
The enormous population of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. often form tight-knit communities where they are able to maintain their native language and culture as they assimilate into their adopted homes. Immigrants of Hispanic origin find their identity in flux as they integrate into U.S. culture, making them not only bilingual but also bicultural. “This new identity, source of cultural strength and survival, needs a new language and Spanglish is the result” (Rothman and Rell, 2005).
The Hispanic population of the U.S. is fast-growing with an ever-increasing educational level and buying power, facts that have not escaped the attention of marketing experts. As an executive of a U.S. based Spanish language television channel states,
It seems apparent that the media as well as the economic interests that fund its existence have converged on the same conclusion as far as the Hispanic community and Spanglish is concerned. Not only are they aware that the Hispanic community is a crucial consumer group whose collective buying power rivals that of any other minority group, but they also realize that a key part of reaching and identifying with this community is through Spanglish (Rothman and Rell, 2005).
¿Hablas Espanglish? Or do you speak Spanglish? If so, say it with pride; Spanglish is here to stay!