Puedes Believe It? Spanglish Gets In El Dictionary The Royal Spanish Academy, considered the authority on the Spanish language, has recently approved the new term "Espanglish." While some applaud the academy for recognizing a language that's been spoken for more than a century, critics say the word's "deformed" definition is insulting.
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Puedes Believe It? Spanglish Gets In El Dictionary

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Puedes Believe It? Spanglish Gets In El Dictionary

Puedes Believe It? Spanglish Gets In El Dictionary

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And finally this hour, a new word has been accepted by the official arbiters of the Spanish language. The Royal Spanish Academy is adding the word Espanglish to the 2014 edition of its dictionary. It's a big deal for the traditionally conservative academy and for people who believe that the mixing of Spanish and English has been officially ignored for years. But as NPR's Jasmine Garsd reports, not everyone is happy.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The most common type of Spanglish features speakers switching back and forth from English to Spanish automatically and unconsciously.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken) muffins, poppy seed, cinnamon, banana nut, (foreign language spoken).

GARSD: For example, the cooks at my neighborhood cafeteria always make a point of telling me what they had for breakfast.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Oatmeal con brown sugar and raisins.

GARSD: Another form of Spanglish involves translating phrases and words from English into Spanish or vice versa. The roof becomes (foreign language spoken). And if your roof is leaking, you might say (foreign language spoken).

ILAN STAVANS: Most immigrant languages have gone through a similar evolution.

GARSD: Professor Ilan Stavans teaches Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College.

STAVANS: They have given place to English in the children of those that were the immigrants, and the immigrant language has become a subject or an object of nostalgia. This is not happening among Latinos. Latinos are not losing the Spanish language, but they are not keeping it in a pure form, and this impure form has been around for over 150 years.

GARSD: Stavans is the author of "Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language." It's a language that's so pervasive it comes as a surprise that the Royal Spanish Academy has just now decided to recognize it. Gerardo Pina-Rosales is the director of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language, which has been lobbying the Spanish academy to recognize Spanglish.

GERARDO PINA-ROSALES: We are putting pressure on the Royal Academy, and they know it. They know basically that the future of the Spanish language is not in Spain, it's not in Mexico or any other Latin American countries, but in the United States.

GARSD: But at least for now, Spain is still the final arbiter of the official Spanish language, and the Spanish Academy is defining Espanglish as a form of speech that mixes, quote, "deformed elements of vocabulary and grammar from both Spanish and English." It's the word deformed that's rubbing Pina-Rosales the wrong way.

PINA-ROSALES: They added that, and we are complaining because we don't think it's a deformation at all.

GARSD: He's not the only one who's ticked off. Many Latino scholars, including Ilan Stavans, were horrified at the definition.

STAVANS: The use of deformation really points, at least to me, a lack of understanding of how language works, a nearsightedness, as if language is formed in one part of the world and deformed by the barbarians.

GARSD: But as Stavans himself points out, perhaps more than any other immigrant community in U.S. history, Spanish-speaking immigrants and their descendants have always maintained a close bond with their roots.

STAVANS: For an Italian from Sicily in the 19th century to come to the United States as an immigrant to dream of going back home meant many, many miles and many dollars. For someone who is Latino and lives in San Antonio or in New York City for that matter or Chicago, it's very easy. It's very cheap as well. And so we are a population that never quite cuts its umbilical cord.

GARSD: As a result, Stavans says that Latino living in Irvine, San Antonio or New York City feels no need to cling to a pure version of Spanish. So as Mexican-American comedian George Lopez once said, the Royal Spanish Academy's fight to keep the language intact might be quixotic.

GEORGE LOPEZ: Because we're always going to speak Spanglish.


LOPEZ: It's too late. That's all we've talked in our house for years. (Foreign language spoken). I went to the store to buy the (foreign language spoken) that I like, (foreign language spoken) sold out.

GARSD: Jasmine Garsd, NPR Noticias.

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