Sunday, April 27, 2014

Student Reflection

by Nicole Mathes

“Spanglish” in the Classroom

Last semester I took a Spanish linguistics course. One of the final topics that we discussed was the use of “Spanglish,” particularly in America.  According to Oxford dictionary, “Spanglish” is defined as “a hybrid language combining words and idioms from both Spanish and English, especially Spanish speech that uses many English words and expressions.” Basically, it is when people speak both Spanish and English in the same sentence (you can see that I have written some examples in the picture). A lot of the articles, blogs, and opinion columns that we read had negative views of Spanglish. For example, some of the authors thought that it was used by ignorant Americans who only spoke Spanglish to either make fun of the Spanish language, the Hispanic people, or to appear like they knew something. A lot of times, the use of Spanglish can be derogatory. For instance if someone says “I want to kick back with a nice cerveza”, this sentence can imply that Hispanics are lazy and only drink. I can understand why some people think that the use of Spanglish is offensive and I agree that it can be. However, that is not always the case. 

In my opinion, I think that the use of Spanglish demonstrates the blend of two cultures in America. While I am not sure that I would necessarily consider it its own language, per say, I think that the motivation behind its use is interesting and eye-opening. Consider the hypothetical, albeit realistic, case of an eight-year old boy who was born in America, but whose parents are native Spanish speakers who were born in Mexico and immigrated to America before their son was born. This boy can identify with both the American culture AND the Hispanic culture. Why? Because he was born in America, he goes to a school where his peers and teachers speak English, and he’s learning about the history and culture of America at school and in his community. But, his parents speak Spanish to him at home (so he knows Spanish as well) and his parents and relatives teach him about the Hispanic culture and customs. Through the use of Spanglish, he can demonstrate that he is both part of the Hispanic and American community; the “language” represents a part of who is he.

Many of the students in Ms. X’s [names have been eliminated to protect privacy] class have a background that is similar to that of the hypothetical boy’s and they use Spanglish. Ms. X, the teacher, even uses Spanglish. The first time I heard her speak Spanglish to her students, I did a double-take. Never, in all my Spanish classes had I EVER heard a teacher speak Spanglish as if it was a normal thing. It. Was. AWESOME. Sure, teachers had “spoken” Spanglish, but only to show us an example of what is was. Ms. Perez speaks it daily and combines both languages as if Spanglish IS its own language. And who knows, maybe it really is? The students in her class are bilingual, but some students understand Spanish better, while others prefer English. They are also supposed to be learning how to read in English and become more proficient in their reading and comprehension abilities, so speaking in English is beneficial to the students. However, hearing a little bit of Spanish also makes them feel comfortable. For them, speaking Spanglish is acceptable, normal, beneficial, and represents their identities. In this way, Spanglish is not offensive, but rather, a way of life that symbolizes what could be a unique, new and emerging culture in America.   

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