Pardon My Spanglish

Being bilingual generally entails being able to speak in two languages. Being bicultural isn’t nearly as simple. Imagine a Venn diagram where one circle represents American culture and the other represents Mexican culture; I exist in the intersection between the two.  In addition to flipping my language switch from English to Spanish and back again as needed, sometimes my speech also exists in the overlap between both languages. Yes, I speak English. También hablo Español. But sometimes, es más fácil to speak Spanglish como mis amigos.a spanglish

Spanglish, a hybrid of English and Spanish, is becoming increasingly mainstream despite linguistic purists who see it as a debasement of one or both languages. I, on the other hand, see it as a way to reconcile the two halves of my cultural identity.

I have frequently been accused of not being Mexican enough. Either for the way I speak, or for my appearance, I am often kept at a distance and labeled a gringa by people who don’t know me. On the other hand, I am no stranger to being called weird or being treated differently because my ethnicity and the culture that comes along with it. Thankfully, I’m not alone. More and more people are finding themselves in between being too Mexican by some people’s standards, and not Mexican enough for others. Spanglish is a language that carries an implicit understanding of the speaker’s background and bicultural plight. For a Mexican American, Spanglish fits a niche the fairy tale character, Goldie Locks, was constantly trying to fill: It’s just right.

Spanglish employs two methods of language blending: borrowing, when English words are adapted to Spanish phonology; and code-switching or mixing, a term used to describe the switching from one language to another.


Have you ever heard the saying, “In English, any word can be verbed”? Well, any English verb can be Spanglished.spanglish4 Take, for example, the word chat. Add an “-ar” ending to make a verb into an infinitive, and pronounce it in Spanish. Now you have the Spanglish word “chatear”. Generally, this method is used to articulate actions that may not have a direct translation (twittear, to use Twitter; facebookear, to use Facebook; googlear, to use Google), but language blending can also happen by using false cognates in their English form. To park a truck can be expressed with the phrase, “parquear la camioneta.” Or, if you really wanted to play up the Spanglish you could use the blended word “troque” instead of the technically correct “camioneta.”


Code switching makes up the bulk of Spanglish. Sometimes it can be used as a way to clearly express one’s self when one language isn’t quite right. The word “discoteca” conjures up images of discoballs and massive amounts of sequins, whereas the English word “club” seems hipper and more appropriate (in meaning, if not in grammar) to the kind of atmosphere one might encounter while out on the town. Many times have I heard the phrase “fui al club”, with club pronounced more like “cloob”.a spanglish 2

Other times, code switching happens as a way to simplify one’s speech when conversing with another speaker of Spanglish by using the shorter words or phrases from both languages. It is much easier to stick an “Apúrate” on to the end of your sentence than it is to use the English phrase “make it quick”.

To bicultural people, using blended languages like Franglais (French combined with English) and Konglish (Korean combined with English) isn’t a sign you can’t express yourself correctly in one language or the other, it’s a way to connect on a deeper level with people who share your Venn diagram way of life. Blended languages are like secret handshake that denotes your membership into the in-between-culture club. I’m a member, y tú?

Do you speak a hybrid language, if so, what are its components?