- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

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."
Spanglish is everywhere. It's spoken throughout the United States by many of the country's more than 35 million Hispanic residents. It varies by region and nationality, including Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York, Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and Cuban-Americans in Florida.
Immigrants still learning English may turn to Spanglish out of necessity. Bilingual speakers may dip into one language, then weave in another because it's more convenient, educators say.
In an after-school "Spoken Word" class in San Francisco, Hispanic middle school students experiment with writing by mixing the sounds of Spanish and English. Freedom to speak as they want builds the students' confidence in becoming more fluent in whatever language they find challenging, educators say.
A number of universities are offering courses on Spanglish, its history and development.
It's also on the radio, from the Spanish group Las Ketchup with "The Ketchup Song" to Mexican singer Paulina Rubio singing all of her songs in Spanglish when she opens concerts for Enrique Iglesias.
Then there's the cartoon show "Mucha Lucha," whose characters' dialogue is peppered with Spanglish.
The sounds of Spanglish also can be heard in restaurant kitchens, where 16 percent of the 11.6 million employees in the industry are Hispanic.
It's also in stores.
Hallmark, the greeting-card giant, is expanding its line of Spanish-language cards with some Spanglish messages. One card reads: "Una mujer defines herself sin palabras (without words) in her style in her confianza (confidence) in her libertad (freedom) in her integrity."
Those cards are aimed at younger recipients, not an older audience, which "may not approve of mixing languages," according to company officials.
Magazines have caught onto the trend, too.
Latina.com features plenty of stories that blend English and Spanish. The latest issue features a story on "belleza" (beauty) blunders, or singer-actress Jennifer Lopez talking about "las" Christmas.
Spanglish is not a new phenomena in the United States, said Jorge Osterling, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. Rather, Spanglish is just one of more than 100 dialects in the English language, Mr. Osterling said.
"It's a worldwide phenomena," said Mr. Osterling, who works at the university's Center for Multilingual/Multicultural Education. "Spanglish is just one more example of what happens when two languages come together. You've got to ask yourself, what is the purpose of a language? It's to help people communicate efficiently, and if that's the purpose then it is OK."
This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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