Why Speaking Spanglish Is Important To Me.
I find it very difficult in my personal life to complete a conversation without wanting to switch to Spanish, or to English, depending on which language I happen to be speaking at the time. I have run into people either from Latin America or the U.S., who have very strong beliefs that only one language or another should be spoken at any given time to preserve some sort of dignity or formality of the languages themselves. The problem I have with that thought is that it doesn’t really mirror the way that language functions in our daily life.
I feel that the way I use language reflects the way I live my life: in a constant state of transition between worlds. For me, speaking just one language at a time limits how I can express my human experience, censors the manner in which I can share with others the feeling of never fully having footing in either world.
The truth is, although I do speak Spanish with some fluency, I am English dominant. What ends up happening, though, is that when speaking in English I come up against the barriers this language has in for describing culturally relevant emotions and occurrences that I experience— despite my language preference.
So what do you get when you throw a Mexican American woman into an English dominant world that often flusters her cultural expectations for life? An avid Spanglish speaker.
As far as I’m concerned, Spanglish is an art form. You simply do not mix words together willy nilly and then call yourself a Spanglish aficionado. No. It is much more complex than that. There’s always a rhyme or a reason, whether it’s for logical purposes — like the word “chiflado” not existing in English, emotional ones — “mamita” is so much more tender than “babe,” or practical ones — there’s no word for “tamales” in English. Which is to say, if you live a bicultural life, it make sense this would be reflected by the way you use words, or language.
So, despite confusion or the admonishment of language purists, I’m proud to be a Spanglish speaker. I hope that, as time goes on, I continue to explore the worlds of Spanglish and the emotional and experiential journeys it takes me on. But, I would never hope to be fluent in Spanglish — since that would defeat the point.
Copyright 2012 by Sara Inés Calderón. This blog weas previously published on May 25, 2012.