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  • LIVING IN SPANGLISH

    BooK Review: Tower Of Babel LIVING IN SPANGLISH: The Search For Latino Identity In America, By Ed Morales, St. Martin's Press: 310 pp., $25.95

    By EARL SHORRIS



    August 18, 2002
    Copyright © 2002 Los Angeles Times.
    All rights reserved.


    In 1490, in the palace of Tecayehuatzin, lord of Huexotzinco, a group of Nahua princes who were also poets met to discuss the provenance of art and its relation to life and thought. Near the end of the "Dialogue of Flowers and Song," Prince Ayocuan tells the others, "Friends, listen to the dream of a word," and then speaks of "life, enabling us to see."

    Like many works left to us by Mesoamerican civilization, this poem was concerned with language as well as life, for the authors recognized language as the defining human characteristic. So aware of the importance of language were these Mesoamericans that they chose to call themselves Nahuas ("clear speakers").

    Race, on the other hand, was not of interest in pre-Hispanic America, although there were recognizable physical characteristics that could have been used to distinguish among various groups (shorts and talls, for instance, rather than lights and darks). As the Mesoamericans noted, race is a foolish business no matter what the defining characteristics. They were too subtle in their observations to construct a racial system; they drew distinctions according to language, very much like the ancient Greeks. The Greeks thought the language of strangers sounded like "barbarbar," so they called them Barbarians. The Nahuas thought the language of some strangers sounded like "popopo," so they called them Popolocas.

    Languages change, however, none more than English, which is the most inclusive language, leaping from a vocabulary of 50,000 words to double that number with the inclusion of words brought over from the continent by the Norman conquest. Other languages also change, but none quite so rapidly as English. In the Americas, James Lockhart has collected the borrowings from Spanish used by the Nahuas during the years following the invasion. In North America, the Navajos, upon encountering a motorcycle, devised a new and very onomatopoeic word for the curious vehicle: "put-put." Tomatoes and chiles are Nahuatl vegetables. "Canoe" was borrowed from the indigenous people of the Caribbean, who had borrowed it from indigenous people of South America's east coast. The process of language growth has almost always been an inclusion of foreign words.

    Among people who speak more than one language, code-switching (changing from one language to another) occurs regularly. That should not be confused with Spanglish, which is not switching easily from one language to another by bilingual or multilingual speakers. In popular music, which Ed Morales knows and speaks of with authority in "Living in Spanglish," code-switching works especially well. He points out that Latin jazz was and remains a spectacularly successful blend of rhythms, melodies and orchestrations.

    In literary works, say, a novel by Saul Bellow or Carlos Fuentes, the English or Spanish text may be enriched by words or phrases from French, Greek, Latin and so on. Europeans are fond of pointing out to Americans that people who speak only one language are not civilized. Following that rule, one would expect people in the Americas to speak at least English and Spanish. Since the Americas are rich in languages, it would seem that the hemisphere presents a great opportunity to keep alive this most glorious of human creations.

    Morales offers the view that, in the United States, both English and Spanish should die. Instead of favoring bilingual education (English for Spanish-speakers and Spanish for English-speakers), that civilized notion, Morales argues for Spanglish, a third language. Spanglish, which is ill-defined, like any form of pidgin, is a language of colonized people. Spanglish blurs the lines between English and Spanish in confusing ways: a carpet, for example, is called "carpeta," even though carpeta in Spanish means "folder." A library becomes "libreria" in Spanglish, but libreria in Spanish means "bookstore" (biblioteca means "library"). Poets may make use of it to express their anger, but in everyday use it is not the language of protest but of people on their knees. Pidgin has always been an effective way to keep colonized people in that vicious place. For Latinos, who have the highest high school dropout rate of any defined group, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the promotion of a form of communication that insinuates colonial sensibilities and reduces the ability to communicate in both the dominant and ancestral languages is tragic.

    Language, as everyone knows, is both denotative and connotative. Morales, whose family came to New York from Puerto Rico, writes that Spanglish began in Puerto Rico, and he attributes it to Puerto Rico's colonial status . In the eyes of many people, especially those who favor independence for Puerto Rico, the island has been a colony longer than any other place on Earth. The promoter of Spanglish opposes independence, which would probably lead Puerto Rico away from Spanglish to Spanish or bilingualism as the colonial mentality was replaced by the sense of self-worth that comes with autonomy.

    From its roots in colonialism, Spanglish attaches easily to class. Morales writes mainly about popular culture and the now tired view of Latinos mired in drugs and prison life. No doubt, some Latinos use drugs and suffer imprisonment, but nowhere in Morales' book does one find anyone like Alicia Juarrero, the philosopher whose "Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System" has enjoyed global interest; nor do we hear of Dr. Jaime Inclan, who was named family therapist of the year; nor is there a mention of Joaquin Avila Jr., who won a voting rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 9-0.

    Spanglish is not spoken by any of these people, who are, respectively, of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. Interestingly, none of the three accepts the role of internally or externally colonized person. A posteriori or a priori, however one chooses to consider Spanglish, it attaches not to pride but to surrender.

    The other factor connected, throughout history, to pidgin has been race: darker-skinned people trying desperately to find some means to do business with technologically, economically and militarily superior light-skinned people. Promoters of Spanglish take up that connection and attempt to turn it into a virtue, but it cannot be. Language has no color. A posteriori again, Chinua and Christie Achebe speak English as well as I do, but I have no Igbo. The Nigerian author of "Things Fall Apart" and his wife, a historian, and I are limited to English. Not pidgin. The failing is mine, not theirs. They are bilingual--English and Igbo. They understand very well the concept of legitimate power.

    Language itself is of little interest to the author of "Spanglish." Morales writes about La Malinche (or Malinalli), Hernan Cortes' mistress and translator, whom he describes as a Maya. But the Aztecs spoke Nahuatl, not Maya (the languages are mutually unintelligible). Had Malinalli been a Maya, rather than a Nahua sold into slavery to the Maya, she would not have been able to translate for Cortes. Morales frowns upon the idea of learning Nahuatl today, attributing it to Chicanos of "the hard left." But compared with the submissive Spanglish, learning Nahuatl is, like bilingualism, the business of civilized people.

    If language is the grandest of human inventions, the essence of diversity, the wealth of the world, then every language deserves to be nurtured, and no language, neither English nor Spanish nor Nahuatl nor Igbo, should be deprived of its uniqueness. By the making of languages, humans are most like gods: independent, creative, heaven-borne on wings of subtlety. By the gift of languages to each other we are the generous makers of civilized life. If we unmake languages into pidgins, we begin the fall, we burden the generations.

  • #2
    si quieres practicar escribiendo español estas en el lugar correcto.

    Tu estas en el lugar correcto!!!!
    aqui encontraras a muchas personas como yo que les gusta escribir y comberzar en el idioma nativo de nuestra raza... español... y para que complementes tu escritura en muy bueno leer mucho, buscate un libro en español y lee... lee... y asi vas a prendiendo en gramar y lo escribiras mejor...
    thanks for stoping by...

    Comment


    • #3
      Spanglish!

      This link is very interesting. It takes the subject not only deeper but very open to the positive effects of the complicated, confusing, crazy english language which infact is a a language with many foreign words and rules that need to be rid of: http://www.unifon.org/saxon-spanglish.html

      If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
      Thomas Szasz

      Comment


      • #4
        buscate un libro en español y lee... lee... y asi vas a prendiendo en gramar y lo escribiras mejor...

        OOOOOOOOOOOOOOK

        me voy pal cualto a dolmil polque me siento cansao.


        Los recuerdos suelen
        Contarte mentiras



        Stanley

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Spanglish, Black English and Sociolinguistics

          [QUOTE]Originally posted by JaneMas
          [B]This link is very interesting. It takes the subject not only deeper but very open to the positive effects of the complicated, confusing, crazy english language which infact is a a language with many foreign words and rules that need to be rid of: http://www.unifon.org/saxon-spanglish.html
          ______________________________________________________________

          Dear JaneMas: In addition we have the problem that many Puerto Ricans live in close contact with non-Standard varieties of English, among the most common is Black English. Many people are ignorant of the implications of this issue. The best expert on the field is William Labov, here is some of the things that are really important:

          January 23, 1997

          Testimony submitted by William Labov, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, Past President of the Linguistic Society of America, member of the National Academy of Science.

          I am testifying today as a representative of an approach to the study of language that is called "sociolinguistics, " a scientific study based on the recording and measurement of language as it is used in America today. I am now completing research supported by NSF and NEH that is mapping changes in the English language through all of North America, for both mainstream and minority communities. Since 1966, I have done a number of studies of language in the African American community, beginning with work in South Harlem for the Office of Education that was aimed at the question, "Are the language differences between black and white children responsible for reading failure in the inner city schools?"

          The term "Ebonics," our main focus here, has been used to suggest that there is a language, or features of language, common to all people of African ancestry, whether they live in Africa, Brazil or the United States. Linguists who have published studies of the African American community do not used this term, but refer instead to African American Vernacular English, a dialect spoken by most residents of the inner cities. This African American Vernacular English shares most of its grammar and vocabulary with other dialects of English. But it is distinct in many ways, and it is more different from standard English than any other dialect spoken in continental North America. It is not simply slang, or grammatical mistakes, but a well-formed set of rules of pronunciation and grammar that is capable of conveying complex logic and reasoning.

          Research in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Florida, Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco shows a remarkably uniform grammar spoken by African Americans who live and work primarily with other African Americans. Repeated studies by teams of black and white researchers show that about 60% of the African American residents of the inner city speak this dialect in its purist form at home and with intimate friends. Passive exposure to standard English -- through the mass media or in school -- has little effect upon the home language of children from highly segregated inner city areas. However, those African Americans who have had extensive face-to-face dealings with speakers of other dialects show a marked modification of their grammar..

          In the first two decades of research, linguists were divided in their views of the origin of African American English: whether it was a Southern regional dialect descended from nonstandard English and Irish dialects, or the descendant of a Creole grammar similar to that spoken in the Caribbean. By 1980, a consensus seemed to have been reached, as expressed in the verdict of Judge Charles Joyner in the King trial in Ann Arbor: this variety of language showed the influence of the entire history of the African American people from slavery to modern times, and was gradually converging with other dialects.

          However, research in the years that followed found that in many of its important features, African American Vernacular English was becoming not less, but more different from other dialects. Research on the language of ex-slaves showed that some of the most prominent features of the modern dialect were not present in the 19th century. It appears that the present-day form of African American English is not the inheritance of the period of slavery, but the creation of the second half of the 20th century.

          An important aspect of the current situation is the strong social reaction against suggestions that the home language of African American children be used in the first steps of learning to read and write. The Oakland controversy is the fourth major reaction that I know of to proposals of this kind. Plans for programs to make the transition to standard English have misunderstood as plans to teach the children to speak African American English, or Ebonics, and to prevent them from learning standard English. As a result, only one such program has been thoroughly tested in the schools, and even that program, though very successful in improving reading, was terminated because of objections to the use of any African American English in the classroom.

          At the heart of the controversy, there are two major points of view taken by educators. One is that any recognition of a nonstandard language as a legitimate means of expression will only confuse children, and reinforce their tendency to use it instead of standard English. The other is that children learn most rapidly in their home language, and that they can benefit in both motivation and achievement by getting a head start in learning to read and write in this way. Both of these views are honestly held and deserve a fair hearing. But until now, only the first has been tried in the American public school system. The essence of the Oakland school board resolution is that the first method has not succeeded and that the second deserves a trial.

          Research on reading shows that an essential step in learning to read is the mastery of the relation of sound to spelling. As linguists, we know that for most inner city African American children, this relation is different, and more complicated, than for speakers of other dialects. We have not yet been able to apply this knowledge to large-scale programs for the teaching of reading, but we hope that with the interest aroused by the Oakland School Board resolution, this will become possible in the near future.


          There are people who are willing to stake their reputations that testing children in non-Standard varieties of English can result in very high scores in subjects such as science and math.

          What say you?

          Yautia
          It is important for Vieques, many of the adults are proficient in both non-Standard Spanish and non-Standard English.

          Paz Para Vieques

          Comment


          • #6
            "Para Siempre"

            I'm a big fan of emerging artists and one I'm particularly into as of late is Roxanna, even though she is not metal or rock like you suggested. Roxanna has debuted her first music video for her song "Unforgotten" and it features actor James Scott! "Unforgotten" is also available in Spanish entitled "Para Siempre"! I definitely think Roxanna is an artist to watch and I can't wait to hear more of her music! Check out her video!

            Roxanna - Unforgotten Spanish Version (Para Siempre) Featuring James Scott [Official Video} - YouTube

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