'Spanglish' Speakers Mix Home Languages; Popular Trend Seen as obstacle.(PAGE ONE)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

'Spanglish' Speakers Mix Home Languages; Popular Trend Seen as obstacle.(PAGE ONE)


Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Spanglish - a hybrid of Spanish and English languages - is increasingly making its way into mainstream America, a trend critics say could hamper the advancement of Hispanics who may not learn proper English.

Spanglish words and phrases can be heard on television shows like WB's "Mucha Lucha," in music lyrics like Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," in restaurant kitchens, on school playgrounds and at after-school programs where educators encourage Hispanic children to express themselves in both languages.

There's also a Spanglish dictionary in the works, and a Spanglish translation of the first chapter of Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote" already has been completed.

The controversy over Spanglish is largely the same as that over ebonics, or black English, during the late 1990s: Is Spanglish just slang or is it a legitimate dialect? Will children and adults learn and adjust better if they are forced to speak and write purely English in schools, or should schools and businesses accommodate the mix of English and Spanish?

Critics of the movement said the only way Hispanics will advance is if they know how to speak both languages well.

"The idea is good English and good Spanish. Spanglish has no future," said Antonio Garrido, director of the New York-based Instituto Cervantes, which was created by the Spanish government to promote Spanish and Hispanic-American language and culture.

"A person who doesn't speak English well in the United States doesn't have a future," he said.

Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, a professor of Hispanic and comparative literature at Yale University, agreed.

"We're going to end up speaking McSpanish, a sort of anglicized Spanish. I find it offensive the United States' values and cultural mores, all of that, are transmitted through the language filter into Spanish culture," he said.

Spanglish speakers and those who study it, however, claim it is an expression of pride.

"Spanglish is proof that Latinos have a culture that is made up of two parts," said Ilan Stavans, a professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College.

Mr. Stavans recently finished translating into Spanglish the first chapter of "Don Quixote" and is working on the Spanglish dictionary, which is expected to be published next year.

"You live on the hyphen, in between," Mr. Stavans said. "That's what Spanglish is all about, a middle ground."

Heather Williams, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College, shared Mr. Stavans sentiments.

"It's a way of celebrating their culture," said Miss Williams, who teaches classes on social movements and Latin American politics. "It's a way for them not to be quite part of the United States and not quite from their homeland. …

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