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Spanglish: Low Culture Versus High Culture?

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Essay title: Spanglish: Low Culture Versus High Culture?

Spanglish: low culture versus high culture?

There are numerous critics of Spanglish among both Spanish-speakers and American-English-speakers. It is commonly assumed that Spanglish is a jargon: partly Spanish and partly English, “with neither gravitas nor a clear identity” . It is spoken by many of the approximately 35 million people of Hispanic descent in the United States, who, “no longer fluent in the language of Cervantes, have not yet mastered that of Shakespeare” 3. The defenders of pure Spanish are alarmed by the fact that Spanglish is advancing “with speed and movida”, as Leticia Hernandez-Linares puts it, because they see this hybrid of two different languages as a threat to traditional Spanish. Diez Vegas says that Spanish-speaking people have to preserve Spanish, which is, in his opinion, “one of the most beautiful existent languages” rather than betraying to for Spanglish, which is “a bad-sounding monster” 1. Roberto Gonzбlez Echevarrнa, a professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature at Yale University, agrees. “We're going to end up speaking McSpanish, a sort of anglicized Spanish. I find it offensive the United States’ values and cultural mores, all of that are transmitted through the language filter into Spanish culture”, he said in his interview for The Washington Times.

If the Spanish-speaking world is afraid that their native language is going to die out giving in to “the invasion of English” , US critics have no such fear regarding English. However, they find other reasons to protest against Spanglish. Those who stick to political correctness say spreading of Spanglish can “hamper the advancement of Hispanics who may not learn proper English” . For them, Spanglish is a trap that leaves Latinos poor and in the barrio. Spanglish is a deterrent to success. Although, many native-born American regard Spanglish as a way to reject American culture and feel that Latinos should pay more respect to the nation they have chosen to be their home.

On the other hand, many Latinos are unsure about how far they want to push their own hybrid. Many see it as a purely colloquial form of communication best suited to popular culture. Most speakers fall into Spanglish only among other bilingual Latinos, and when they do, is often with a sense of humour. They also switch into Spanish to convey anger, joy, love or embarrassment, because they find it a more descriptive, emotional language than English - not because they do not know the English word.

Traditionalists have deplored this “code-switching” between languages, often calling it a product of laziness and ignorance. And it is true that as Spanish gets fuzzier to American-born Hispanics, they come to rely on English words to fill the gap. But a new school of thought has recently emerged that says that Spanglish illustrates a high degree of fluency in both languages. There is little talk of introducing a Spanglish curriculum in schools or demanding that Spanglish be accepted in the workplace. “It's a sign of linguistic dexterity”, said Ana Celia Zentella, a linguist at Hunter College and at the CUNY Graduate Center who has written

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