Xochitl Lopez, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles, is not allowed to speak Spanglish around her 73-year-old grandfather or she will be reprimanded.

Lopez’s grandfather expects all of his grandchildren to speak in one language at a time. He does not like it when Spanish and English words are mixed.

“He tells me that everyone who uses the two languages in a sentence or translates words incorrectly is insulting both languages,” Lopez said.

Spanglish is a hybrid between English and Spanish words switched back and forth between the languages. It is also known as code-switching.

Incorrect literal translations are also examples of Spanglish. For instance, “to park a car” is usually translated to “parquear el carro,” but the correct translation for parking is “estacionar.”

Though Spanglish has been around for some time, the young are taking it to a whole new level and that is troubling, said Dr. Eugenia Mora, an expert on bilingual education and associate professor at USC Rossier School of Education.

“I have seen it become the norm in first generation college students and current high school students as they begin to lose the sophisticated levels of Spanish and English,” Mora said. “I think it is currently legitimate in the context of language learning and should not be when trying to preserve the Spanish language for future generations.”

Like Lopez, there are many first generation students in the U.S. who constantly mix their two worlds and two languages — Spanish, their language since birth, and English, which they learn at school and use to socialize with others.

The group of Spanglish speakers has now become too large for media companies and advertisers to ignore, resulting in new outreach techniques in order to attract the young.

“Spanglish is now more widely accepted,” said Cristina Burgos, a marketing expert and author of the blog Life in Spanglish. “That’s why you see and hear more of it on TV, online, print and radio. It totally makes sense that [Spanglish] has been embraced for marketing and branding.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the Hispanic population is over 50 million and accounted for more than half of the 27.3-million population increase in the last 10 years, reported the LA Times.

In California alone over 50% of children are Hispanic, reported the LA Times.

News corporations such as mun2, Telemundo and Univision– which at one point primarily delivered Spanish content– have made a shift to offer more Spanglish coverage because they have studied the demographics, Burgos said.

Burgos considers Spanglish neither good nor bad, but simply a reflection of how the “new” language has transformed into a hybrid among Latinos that will influence the future of the U.S.

“Socially I’m more comfortable speaking Spanglish today than before,” Burgos said. “It’s more acceptable to use it and there are more Latinos that talk this way. Los Angeles is the Spanglish capital of the world.”

For Lopez, Spanglish comes naturally because she was exposed to that form of communication by her mom and uncles since she was a child.

“When I cannot remember the word that I am looking for fast enough I’ll speak Spanglish and start mixing words,” Lopez said. “Spanglish has never been something odd for me and I hear it everywhere I go.”

Throughout the years, Spanglish has become a regular part of Lopez’s identity.

I’ll be talking with my amigas (friends) and then we start talking about ropa (clothes), boys, fiestas (partys) and what we want to do en el futuro (in the future) and before we know it we are hablando (speaking) Spanglish,” Lopez explained.

spanglish

Lopez has even encouraged her boyfriend, who is Anglo-American, to speak Spanglish. Her boyfriend is only fluent in English, but he now has begun using Spanish words when talking to her.

Lopez says that recent comments from her boyfriend include: “Estoy muy hungry (I am very hungry), yo te love (I love you) and I like when te pintas tu cabello (I like when you dye your hair).”

On a recent day, Lopez told her grandfather the light had stopped working. “La luz de outside esta broken. ¿La puedes hacer fix?” she said. (The outside light is broken. Can you fix it?)

He looked upset at her, and told Lopez that she needed to do something as soon as possible to change her speaking habit. He wants her to speak fluently in each language without mixing words.

Lopez’s grandfather is worried that Spanglish will corrupt the two languages and harm the traditional Latino cultures.

“I can see how Spanglish cannot be good because now I am less fluent in Spanish,” Lopez said. “I have completely forgotten some words in Spanish, even though it was my first language.”

Language is a product of its environment, Mora said.

“[Spanglish] is also considered a good thing is terms of socialization,” Mora said. “Students, more particularly at the stage of adolescence, may use Spanglish to be part of a social language community.”

According to Mora, some parents subconsciously encourage their children to speak Spanglish.

“Latino parents are model speakers of Spanish, but when children hear them speaking Spanglish they immediately think it’s acceptable,” Mora said. “Since that point they are already teaching children improper language.”

In a classroom setting, the curriculum and lesson plans are still structured as they should be, said Mayra Contreras, a teacher of English and Mathematics at Sacred Heart High School in San Jose.

“Inside my classroom all my Latino students should be speaking English,” Contreras said. “If I hear one of them speaking Spanglish I remind them about our school policy and they immediately make a shift. We encourage them to speak one language at a time because we want them to be able to compete with students whose first language is English.”

In order to assist student’s academic performance, Contreras will not accept written Spanglish in her students’ assignments.

“In an academic setting, I don’t see [Spanglish] becoming accepted at all, or at least not anytime soon,” Contreras said.

Outside the classroom, students refuse to speak one language at a time.

“Some words in English do not carry the same meaning or intensity and that’s why people insert Spanish words,” said Contreras, who also speaks Spanglish. “It’s contagious after I listen to my students speak it.”

“I think it harms culture, when we are trying to conserve a language that connects people to their traditions and ancestral background,” Mora said.

Contreras does not see any harm in using two languages to communicate with others.

“Communicating should be a reward in itself,” Contreras said. “When there’s lack of communication, then we should worry.”

Spanglish has become popular because the younger generation is immersed in English language at school, and Spanish at home, but people are wary that Spanglish could hinder efforts by students to learn English properly.

“Spanglish is not a problem as long as people make an effort to speak English properly,” Burgos said. “We live in America and everyone still has to articulate themselves in correct English. That is a requirement for advancing their lives in the U.S.”

Spanglish could be problematic for the advancement of Latinos in the U.S., but if the young generation builds communicative competence meaning good navigation across language communities then they will be successful Latinos, Mora said.

For Lopez it is difficult to let go of a way of communication that has become part of her identity. She recognizes that Spanglish is not legitimate, but it’s accepted everywhere.

“To exclude Spanglish as a real language seems wrong. Why is it not valid since so many people communicate in this language?” Lopez asked.

Lopez understands that Spanglish will not help when applying for a job, even though she is curious to see a prospective employer’s response.

“Students will learn that they need to be able to communicate properly in English when seeking a job and never use Spanglish during the job hunting process,” Mora said.

Contreras recalls the 2008 presidential campaign before President Obama was elected and how he reached out to Latinos.

“I saw some forms of Spanglish used in Obama’s campaign,” Contreras said. “After many of his speeches and in his ads he would use ‘Si se Puede’ because he knew that would connect with Latinos.”

Burgos believes that Spanglish will continue to become more accepted in the future.

“I speak it. I hear others speak it. It’s a trend that is sticking around forever and I wouldn’t be surprised if [Spanglish] becomes accepted by society,” Lopez said.

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