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South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Tongues Tied; The Blend Of English And Spanish Has Become A Part Of La Vida En South Florida; Spang.Lish N. [Slang] Spanish That Contains Many English Words And Phrases, Esp. As Spoken Among Bilingual People Of Hispanic Background. Example: Tied Lenguas Blends English With The Spanish Word For Tongues

By Liz Doup

January 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

¿Que pasa?

Just look and listen and you'll notice that Spanglish -- un poco de English, a little espanol -- is spreading everywhere.

On TV, in a new cartoon called !Mucha Lucha! In literature, including the premiere Spanish work Don Quixote. In greeting cards, to debut in February. And all over South Florida where the two languages meet and mingle.

Es un problema for purists who don't want to see Spanish diluted. But it's probably a lost battle. Especially with computadoras creating a whole new vocabulary that doesn't translate.

Fact is, Spanglish is now so much a part of our livin' la vida loca we hardly notice anymore.

"I do it so much I don't even realize I'm doing it," says Ana Serrano, 36, an office manager from Margate. "Sometimes, my English-speaking friends look at me, like `What did you just say?'"

It's only natural in South Florida, the front door to Latin America and home to mushrooming numbers of native Spanish speakers, that Spanglish could be our third language.


"Spanglish is more than words, it's part of our identity as Latinos," says Ilan Stavans, a Mexico-born professor of Hispanic studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts and author of Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language to be published by HarperCollins this year. "It shows we're part of two cultures, Latino and American."

Perhaps nothing shoved Spanglish into the 21st century faster than the computer. About 10 percent of the 4,000 terms in Stavans' dictionary are "cyber Spanglish." For instance, you deleteas a file. Or you baqueas --back up -- your work.

Increasingly, Spanglish peppers our entertainment and, more recently, the stuff we buy. Flip on WB network's new cartoon show !Mucha Lucha! to hear Buena Girl speak Spanglish at the Mexican wrestling school.

Or check out new cards from Hallmark, which first offered Spanglish greetings last spring to good response.

"They appeal to a specific consumer," says Deidre Parkes, a Hallmark spokeswoman. "Typically, they're the children of immigrants who grew up hearing Spanish at home but English in school."

So a Mother's Day card reads:

Moms are always present

Muy buenas!Si! It's true --

Que vivan all the world's great moms --

!especialmente tu

!Feliz Mother's Day!

It's nothing nuevo

Living in South Florida, you might think an immigrant flood fueled the Spanglish explosion. But English-Spanish hybridization is nothing nuevo.

Stavans dates it at least to 1848. That's when a large chunk of Mexican territory became part of the Southwestern United States. Spanish speakers were transformed into Americanos.

Nor can South Florida claim Spanglish as its own. You hear it in New York City, Los Angeles and in southern Texas. Anyplace where Hispanic culture crashes into the Americano way of life.

Even then it's colored by region and nationality. Cuban-Americans' Spanglish, for instance, differs from Mexican-American Spanglish in the Southwest.

Everyone doesn't think que esta OK to speak Spanglish, however. Some critics think that by diluting the language, you dilute the culture. As it stands, only 7 percent of U.S.-born children of immigrants speak Spanish solamente, and the rest are bilingual or English-dominant, according to a recent survey by the Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation.

"It's very regrettable," says Uva de Aragon, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. "Both English and Spanish are very good languages, and when you mix them, it doesn't do a service to anyone."

Other language specialists agree, at least in part. In a Spanish class at Boca Raton High, teacher Sue Kagan insists on students speaking "proper" Spanish. If they say "Vamos a lunchear" (pronounced lonchar) when heading to lunch, she'll correct them.

"Vamos a almorzar," she says.

"[Spanglish] is probably always going to be the language students use with each other," Kagan says. "But they need to understand there's a time and place for it. You probably aren't going to speak it with your grandmother."

In contrast, Bill Teck, a Miami writer, sees it as the perfect way for those grandparents who speak mainly Spanish to communicate with grandchildren who speak mainly English. Teck coined the term Generation N (pronounced EN-yay and is a letter in the Spanish alphabet) to refer to the generation of English-dominant bilingual Hispanics who call themselves bicultural.

"It's a solution," he says. "It's a way for one generation to communicate with another. And it's not going away."

The Spanglish battle contains un poco de snobbery, says Stavans, who teaches a course in Spanglish at Amherst.

At an academic conference, a language purist told him Spanglish wouldn't achieve acceptance until it produced a classic. So Stavans did a translation of the first chapter of the Spanish literary work Don Quixote into Spanglish.

But while the academics debate, others go on doing what comes naturally. Speaking Spanglish. And not just kids of Hispanic parents, either.

"You hear it when English speakers are learning Spanish and can't think of the word," says Israel Felix, 22, athletic director at the Hollywood Boys and Girls Club in New York City. Felix's parents are from the Dominican Republic; he was born in the United States. And he speaks Spanglish with friends.

Dame un ride? he might say, if asking for a ride from a friend. Es mas facil that way.

Serrano, the Margate manager, is from Puerto Rico, and she's teaching her American-born children Spanish. Even though the result is closer to Spanglish.

"I feel very strongly about teaching my kids Spanish, even if it's not perfect Spanish," says Serrano, mother to 6-year-old twins.

So she'll hear her boys say, "Mama, I have to throw this in la [the garbage]."

Bridging two cultures with a new language is tricky at times. And sometimes downright embarrassing.

In her early teaching days, Kagan, a native English speaker, recalls fumbling for a Spanish word. Then she tried to tell her class Tengo verguenza -- "I'm embarrassed" -- for forgetting.

Alas, she couldn't remember the Spanish word for embarrassed either. So she winged it with un poco de Spanglish, which didn't translate as she hoped.

Tengo embarazada, she told them.

"I'm pregnant."

Cyber Spanglish

January 18 2003

Some examples of cyber Spanglish:

-Save a file and you make el backup.

-Don't forget to baquear your work.

-When your computer locks up it's time to resetear.

-Take el maus to clickear on icons.

-Talk to people and you chateas online.

-You deleteas a file.


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