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- Is Spanglish Retarded?
Back when I lived in Ohio, I remember taking some trip to Columbus to do a presentation on some academic conference.
A guy I knew named Doug from Canada came along.
While in Columbus, I remember meeting a few random folks here and there.
There was some socially awkward fat dude that was somehow pissing Doug off by trying to engage in a conversation with us.
The dude just screamed socially awkward and it was weird listening to him talk.
And there were other interesting characters too.
The one most relevant to this article today was some Latino dude I came across who was speaking weird during his presentation.
I didn't speak to him directly. Only listened to how he was speaking when he presented his work.
At first, he was making me confused as he spoke because it felt like my brain was switching between different languages.
He had an accent.
And so maybe he spoke Spanish perfectly?
He would say a sentence in Spanish but there’d be English sprinkled in.
Once I caught on early enough that he was sprinkling English words into his Spanish, he became more understandable to me.
It was just weird at first because he’d seemingly switch up the language or that’s what it felt like initially.
Anyway, he was a nice dude but just spoke weird.
Reminds me a bit of this video here of this Latino dude who speaks a little bit similar to what I’m describing above.
It’s not perfect English nor is it perfect Spanish.
You almost get the sense – like I did with the dude at that conference – that the guy doesn’t speak either language perfectly.
That he somehow grew up knowing a bit of both languages but not being truly “native” in either so to speak.
With the end result being some weird combo language that consists of both Spanish and English.
Definitions of Spanglish
Well, we have a few definitions from Urban Dictionary here to work with.
“A mix of the two languages Spanish and English Often used in the Latino community, or used by white kids trying too look cool and exotic. Sometimes this will be the end result of a half-assed public school spanish education.”
“The unofficial language of south Miami”
“An incomprehensible and inane dialect formed by muddling a butchered version of the English language with some form of Spanish; usually the regional variant of Spanish spoken in Mexico.”
“Urban American language. Not quite English, Not quite Spanish”
“Combination of english and spanish words, spoken with the non-english accent and often contains words that are of neither language, or words with elements of both languages. may be spoken by someone who doesnt speak spanish and/or english well, or someone who speaks both very well. often used intelligently by switching languages for emphasis. also spoken by "latinos" in the united states who share parts of U.S. culture and culture from a latin american country, and prefer speaking both languages instead of one or the other (also can interchange languages at will).”
Now that we have some rough idea of the topic, let’s break down some thoughts on the subject.
Is Spanglish retarded?
When Movies & TV Shows Do it
First, we have the case where movies or TV shows will sprinkle in something that resembles Spanglish.
One example being this episode here of Dexter where Deborah is speaking to some immigrant but he doesn’t understand English.
So she sprinkles the letter “o” at the end of the words and tries her best at some mixed version of both Spanish and English.
Thankfully for Deborah, the immigrant somehow understands her despite her Spanish not being understandable to any native speaker who doesn’t know English.
In this case, I think it’s more of an example of a TV show simply trying to be funny or cute with the language.
I didn’t mind it – it was a little bit funny to me.
Still, you got cases where TV shows or movies try putting in some Spanglish.
For me, it feels a little bit forced and like they are trying to pander to a Latino audience.
So I’d say, in this context, it can be a bit retarded.
Genuine Spanglish in the Real World
Next, we have the type of Latino in the US who genuinely doesn’t speak Spanish or English perfectly.
For whatever reason!
They simply don’t have the strongest command of either language and genuinely speak the way they do.
In this case, some might argue that maybe it’s sad that said Latino never learned either language properly.
Always stuck without being native in any real language.
I guess so.
Regardless of how said Latino came about to speaking like that, it is what it is.
I wouldn’t say it’s retarded.
It’s just how the dude speaks.
No reason to judge.
That’s how it is.
Trying to be Cool or Funny
Next, we have the person trying to be cool by sprinkling Spanish into their vocabulary.
Reminds me of this scene here from 90 Day Fiance where the mother of the daughter tells her to tell her Dominican boyfriend that “our baño is his baño” and how she reminds her daughter to “tell him about the baño” since it is assumed that he is asleep.
This is more of a case of someone trying to be cute or funny.
Similarly, you have some folks, Latinos or non-Latinos, who try sprinkling some Spanish into their sentences to come across as cool.
Because, at least from my impression, there is a certain “coolness” that Spanish has in some urban areas of the US.
Kinda reminds me of Latinos trying to show the world how they speak English in Mexico or broader Latin America.
So what do I think about all of this?
Well, I did find the clip above to be funny because of how cringe it was.
More like me laughing at them.
I think sometimes Spanglish when trying to be funny can work. Depends on context.
But when it comes to trying to be cool?
I think that’s retarded.
If you are a Mexican trying to show the world his English in Mexico or someone in the US doing the same with Spanish because you want to come across as “educated” in Mexico or “cultured” in the US, then I can’t help but think you’re retarded.
It rubs me the wrong way.
It’s not genuine.
And, at least in Mexico, it’s annoying.
I imagine it’d be annoying in the US in some contexts.
So I’m not as big of a fan of this group.
Forgot a Word!
I’ll be honest here – I’ve sometimes forgotten a rare word in English from time to time.
When I was talking with my sister over the phone last Saturday, there was a word I forgot.
It was fragments.
The Spanish equivalent came to my mind first and I couldn’t remember, for some odd reason, the English version of it.
Of course, I didn’t say the Spanish version of the word “fragment” in the middle of my English sentence because my sister doesn’t speak Spanish.
So it wouldn’t make sense.
But she knew the word I was reaching for given the context of the sentence and said it.
I can definitely see why some folks would maybe sprinkle a random English or Spanish word into a sentence of the opposite language if they just happened to forget a word.
So this isn’t retarded to me.
It seems normal.
Promoting a Product in Part English in Latin America
This is a weird one to me.
Once in a while, I’ll see something advertised in part English here in Latin America.
It usually comes in the form of either the menu having random English words sprinkled into it or the restaurant has some English words on top of it like “steak house.”
Do they not have a term for “steak house” in Spanish?
Or, when I went to some café years ago, I noticed how they had the term “cheese cake” on the menu.
And I asked the employee out of curiosity “why cheese cake?”
The dude laughed but didn’t know obviously why they phrased it as “cheese cake” in Mexico.
Recently, I went to a hamburger spot in Lindavista area of Mexico City.
On the menu, they had like 3 of their burger options being written in part English.
Where the name of the burger option would be in English but its ingredients in Spanish.
It’s been a few week since I went there but it was something like “Meat Monster” or something like that.
Some double meat, double bacon with 3 cheeses option.
It did taste good to be fair!
But why the English mixed with Spanish?
And, keep in mind, this burger joint was not in a touristy area whatsoever.
It wasn’t even close to the Basilica, which is the main touristy draw of this particular area.
When I went there, the employee was even very curious about me, where I’m from and what I’m doing in Mexico.
A type of curiosity you see among Latinos who live in areas where they might not have as much interaction with foreigners.
Therefore, they have greater curiosity about what you’re doing there.
And, in my time so far in Lindavista, I have yet to see another foreigner around these parts.
So you can’t say to me that “the English is there because of tourists who don’t speak Spanish.”
Anyway, I don’t mind this too much.
It doesn’t bother me much at all but it is slightly retarded to have labels like that in English down here.
The Border is Different?
Whenever you go to a border area of any part of the world between two or more countries, you’ll usually see some mixing of cultural influence from all said countries on said border area.
Where the cities on said border will have people from all the bordering countries hanging around and their cultural and linguistic influence will show in daily life.
While living in Latin America, I’d sometimes noticed this.
Like when I was in Misiones, Argentina and got close to the border area that it has with Brazil for example.
Similarly, though I’ve never been to the border on either side of Mexico or the US, I imagine it’s similar there also.
Where the use of Spanglish is simply more common because of that border factor.
I wouldn’t say it’s retarded for people to speak with more Spanglish in this context if that’s how they grew up learning Spanish.
Seems legit to me.
Cultural Influences in the Rest of Latin America
Similarly, you have parts of Latin America where I’ve noticed Spanglish to be a little more common in my own experience.
Those areas being the Caribbean Coast of Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
In my experience, I thought I encountered more Spanglish in either area than I have in other parts of Latin America.
I can only chalk it up to that’s how some younger folks learned Spanish.
Like with my ex-girlfriend named Marcela who was from Barranquilla, Colombia.
She’d use words like “closet” or other words or expressions that sounded a little more like Spanglish to me.
If that’s how people speak, fair enough.
And maybe it’s because of more American influence in some parts like Santo Domingo?
I don’t know but it’s just a guess.
So I wouldn’t say this is retarded.
And speaking of cultural influence…
Cultural Influence in the US
In the US, you have Miami.
Where you will hear Spanglish more common over there.
It goes both ways in this case.
Cultural influence being brought to the US and folks inside the US (similar to border towns in the US also from what I imagine) having more folks speaking Spanglish than what you’d find in rural North Dakota maybe.
Again, if this is how someone naturally speaks, then I don’t see much of a problem.
I don’t care really.
So I wouldn’t say it’s retarded.
When Phrases Sound Better in the Other Language
Sometimes, it could be the case that certain phrases or words sound better when expressed in one language versus the other.
So, when speaking with another bilingual person, you might switch to the other language to put out a phrase that makes sense in the context and drives home the point you are making better than it would in the first language.
In this case, I get why someone would do that and I don’t see an issue here.
When Both Speakers Suck Dick at the Other’s Language
This is the case where you have two people speaking to each other but don’t dominate well the other person’s language.
A gringo with minimal Spanish and a Latino with minimal English.
In cases like this, it could be that the conversation resembles some Spanglish.
Where the Latino is trying to say something in English and goes AH HMM UHHH AH OK VAS… YOU! YOU! VAS A INGLESIA…CHURCH…YES!! SI.”
And the gringo is carrying along with the conversation trying to make sense of where he needs to go.
Maybe chipping in a little of broken Spanish on his end.
Where they finally have some understanding.
Not a perfect one.
The gringo walks away not entirely confident that he understood perfectly what he said and the Latino is not entirely confident that said gringo understood it all.
But they roll with it.
A conversation where two people don’t dominate the other’s language well and they have some broken ass conversation with fragments of English and Spanish sprinkled in.
It’s funny to think about but it happens.
And I wouldn’t say it’s retarded – silly yes.
But shit happens and what else can you do in this context outside of pulling out Google Translate?
The Insecure Latino in the US
Next, we have the insecure Latino in the US.
Usually a young soul in his early 20s going to college somewhere.
Maybe in Ohio.
And feels the need to sprinkle some Spanish into his sentences that makes it sound more like Spanglish.
Just feels the need to sprinkle that Spanish in occasionally.
Even when speaking with non-Latinos who don’t speak Spanish well.
This type of Latino does it, from my perspective, because they want to “seem more Latino.”
They weren’t born in Latin America.
But want to connect with their heritage and will engage it in various ways.
One of them being that they sprinkle an occasional Spanish word here and there to “seem more Latino.”
It’s weird to me.
I think it’s a little bit retarded or at least sad when you consider how insecure some (not all) of these folks come across.
It is what it is though.
The Purist Argument
Next, we have the argument that Spanglish is bad because it ruins the Spanish language.
Eh, I’d have to disagree.
Language always changes.
In Latin America, you have more indigenous heavy areas where indigenous words are mixed into Spanish.
Is that ruining the language?
I’d say no.
It’s just how some folks speak!
The Spanish language, like any language on the planet, has its regional variances.
It’s why I consider Spanglish, when it’s not forced or done by people trying to be funny, to be more legit.
Like with those on the border or in Miami or those in Barranquilla or Puerto Rico or wherever.
Language is always changing and it has its regional variants.
Deal with it.
Got Anything to Add?
Anyway, I’m sure there’s many other things that could be said on the topic of Spanglish.
Many other contexts in which it comes out.
And also many other perspectives from other folks -- Latinos from both Latin America and elsewhere – that can be added to the discussion.
If you have anything to add, drop a comment below in the comment section.
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Thanks for reading.