I love speaking Spanglish. Actually, I am not sure if that is true because most of the time I don’t even realise that I am speaking Spanglish, so can I really say that I love it? I find it very helpful to be able to speak Spanglish with friends because some words are simply better for explaining things than others and I want to use those. If these words happen to be in Spanish when I am speaking English then I want to use them, and vice versa. The problem comes when I am around people who are not bilingual. I find myself starting to struggle, I have to think more, I pause more as I speak, mainly because I am searching through my brain for words and phrases that I have stopped using. They are resting far at the back of my brain, taking a siesta if you will.
I wrote a piece about Spanglish a few years back and I remember many people being quite disgusted by my love of Spanglish. I was shocked that many readers felt so strongly about it. To me, it is just another way that language evolves. Spending some time in LA recently, I also realised that my Spanglish is quite different to the Spanglish spoken by Mexicans in the US and many people there wouldn’t regard how I speak as being Spanglish. Some of this is cultural, special etc. and another thing is that my Spanglish mainly calls on Spanish words when I speak English, whereas in LA it is the other way round and also includes the Anglicisation of Spanish words (the word for truck becoming troca rather than camioneta for example). I love this! It is fascinating, interesting and more intricately complex and anthropologically relevant than I can even go into here. Whether you love it or hate it, I think that Spanglish is here to stay and will continue to evolve and change with times.
Recently I have come across a number of writers whose first language is English, who are making use of Spanglish in their work. I delight in this. I hope to do it myself one day.
If you want to delve into a world of Spanglish here are a few wonderful options:
I know Melisa from her time spent in Oaxaca researching people learning Spanish in older age. I would always love reading her poetry and listening to her read it to us in our small group of writers who would meet each week to share our work. She is the kind of poet who delights in language and its fluidity, its challenges and I particularly love her interest in how learning Spanish can trip you up in ways you had never imagined. Her poems, in the first third of this book that I got the honour of reading prior to its publication, are fascinating and funny and offer a clever insight into learning Spanish and the use of Spanglish to tell this tale is simply perfect.
This is a beautiful tale of love and how language defines us and our relationships. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone who speaks a different language will relate to this stunningly crafted tale.
Rosemary Davis wrote a beautiful piece for Mexico Retold last year about cross-cultural love and has recently created a space on her website where people can write outside their native language and where bilingual pieces can also be submitted. There are some beautiful entries.
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.