Why Spanglish Is so Controversial: 4 Common Misconceptions

To most people outside of the Spanish-speaking world, Spanglish is a neutral subject. Within the community of Spanish speakers, it is a source of great controversy because a number of people believe in the following negative stereotypes about Spanglish while an equally large number of people communicate in it regularly.  This creates the illusion that “pure” Spanish or “pure” English are superior to Spanglish, but the true value of a language lies solely in how well it expresses meaning.

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Misconceptions:

1. It is merely a corrupted version of Spanish, the bastard child of two languages, without any merit of its own.

This is simply not true.  Spanglish is a rich mixture of English and Spanish with its own grammatical structure and unique vocabulary that isn’t found in either parent language.

Fun Spanglish vocab:

  • Googlear (to google)
  • Parquear (to park the car)
  • Chequear (to check)
  • My personal favorite: Sangweesh (Sandwich)

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2. It is used by the uneducated.

Not only is this misconception offensive, it’s quite the opposite.  Speaking Spanglish requires a deeper understanding of both languages than if you never mix them.  In order to speak correct Spanglish (yes, there is such a thing as incorrect Spanglish!) you have to be able to combine English and Spanish without breaking the grammatical structure of either language.  This is not a simple task!

Correct Spanglish for “a skinny horse” or “un caballo flaco”:

  • a skinny caballo

Incorrect Spanglish for “a skinny horse” or “un caballo flaco”:

  • a caballo skinny

This example is incorrect Spanglish because the adjective is in English and in English grammar it belongs before the noun, not after it.

3. Its use deteriorates the Spanish language and contributes to the decline of Spanish.

Linguistic purists would argue that Spanglish is a corruption of Spanish, but languages are alive and constantly evolving with the people who use them.  Spanglish came about because it is a more relevant means of expression to the people speaking it than “pure” Spanish or English.  People of Spanish speaking families growing up in the United States often switch between both languages throughout the day.  Because of this, their thoughts and experiences are sometimes best expressed in a combination of the two languages.

 

4. It keeps Latinos in poverty because it prevents them from learning “proper” English.  

Spanglish is typically spoken in more casual or familiar settings and does not prevent using “proper” English in the workplace.  The ability to speak Spanglish, like speaking any other second language, does not prevent a person from speaking other languages fluently.  This is like arguing that knowing how to ride a bike will prevent you from learning how to drive a car!


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