Livin’ La Vida En Spanglish

Last week I posted on Facebook that, sometimes, people are frustrated by my Spanglish speaking ways. But, that’s the way I think — so ni modo. I got some interesting response and so wanted to explore this topic further.

The truth is that I learned English and Spanish at the same time growing up, after my parents divorced, my mom spoke mostly English to my brother and I, so I lost a lot of the Spanish I knew. When I went to college I was determined to reclaim my bilingualism, and so to this end, I spent my junior year of college studying in Monterrey.

When I came back to the U.S., I found I had temporarily acquired a Regiomontano accent and that many people didn’t understand or were familiar with the Spanish I spoke. Ah, regionalisms. After college when I started working along the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas was really when Spanglish took root in my soul. Up to that point, I had kept the languages mostly separate.

My time in Brownsville was the first time in my life that I realized there was a language between English and Spanish that was spoken just like any other — with established and culturally accepted rules. You don’t just randomly mix two languages together and get Spanglish, rather, certain phrases are more likely to be said in Spanish and others in English; then both mix together and you get Spanglish.

After my time in Brownsville, I found that it was too late to go back — my mind had come to accept Spanglish as the SOP for my world. It’s especially funny, these days in LA, when I bust out in Spanglish and people don’t really get my South Texas Spanglish, but think I’m talking funny. Although I do know how to speak completely either in English or Spanish, this is often easier said than done when I’m in my normal, everyday mode. My brain simply doesn’t distinguish between the languages with a wall anymore: comparable, one might say, to my life and the way my English and Spanish worlds collide.

So, all I ask is a little bit of understanding from people who think it’s “trashy” or “uneducated” to speak in Spanglish. First of all, it’s ignorant for you to make that judgement when you don’t understand how language evolved this way, what’s more, mixing languages this way is pretty much the way language has been evolving since it began gajillions of years ago. Secondly, for those of my friends in LA who don’t “get it,” I’ll try a little harder to learn the LA version of Spanglish.

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