¡Spanglish spoken aquí!

EspanglishThe latest US census shows 53 million native Spanish speakers living in the US. That’s a population bigger than many developed countries in the world, and more than Spain’s 2014 population of 47 million. The largest concentration of Spanish speakers in the US are mainly in California and Florida, although they can also be found far north where some occasionally work as migrant field workers.

New Mexico has been a bilingual state since the area was first colonized by Don Juan de Oñate in 1598. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US and the second oldest European-settled city after St Augustine in Florida, which was also established by the Spanish in 1565. Thus speaking Spanish in the US is no new trend.

In fact the English language is full of words that originally entered through Spanish: abalone, adobe, aficionado, albatross, alligator, alpaca, armada, armadillo, anchovy, avocado, banana, barbeque, barracuda, bonanza, burrito, burro, bronco, cabana, cafeteria, cannibal, canyon, cigar, cockroach. And the list goes on and on.

There are television and radio stations as well as newspapers in Spanish. And telenovelas – Spanish-speaking soap operas.

Adiós is used as often as ciao or sayonara; and let’s not forget hasta luego and hasta la vista, with a nod to Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. In fact the film Blade Runner from 1982 hinted that a language based on Spanish, Japanese and German would evolve in Southern California. (But they hadn’t yet anticipated the flood of post-shah Persians who also play into the mix as parts of LA are informally called Little Teheran.)

Spanglish has become such a staple in the US that a movie of the same name was made in 2004. Then in 2006 the amazing and brilliant 2015 academy-award-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu included a bilingual family in Babel, his tale of communication, noncommunication, miscommunication and discommunication. Basically, Culture Clash 101 were it to be included as a university course.

Many of the words that are now being included in Spanglish are new to English too like Googlear or gugulear (to google), clickear (to click), taguear (to tag), and tuitear (to tweet).

So Spanish enriched English with vocabulary and culture. And Spanglish, or Espanglish if you are a native Spanish speaker, is realizing the latest inflow or influx, or actually incursion, of English into Spanish. Again. And so the circle continues.

From Spanish Mid 17th century: from Spanish, alteration (influenced by avocado 'advocate') of aguacate, from Nahuatl ahuacatl.avocado: Oxford Dictionary (online) Mid-17th century: from Spanish, alteration (influenced by avocado ‘advocate’) of aguacate, from Nahuatl ahuacatl.


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Common ground

Common Ground

If you live in Indiana or Tennessee, it may never occur to you to use the spellings organise, colour or oenology. Actually you might never use oenology, or the American counterpart enology for that matter, unless you are a true wine enthusiast. By the same token, if you live in London or Dublin, you would never consider using color or flavor. You may however use organize instead of organise, especially if you are an academic or follow Oxford Dictionaries’ spelling preferences.

But this situation appears to be changing with the increase in exposure to all regional varieties of English. And the common ground of course is the Internet, or if you prefer, the internet. Now we all have access to any corner of the world from our own living rooms, kitchens or local cafés.

During the last three decades I have lived in five countries and taught English to many non-native speakers, as well as native English speakers in the US at the university level. Foreign students of English are often exposed to a variety of “Englishes”, and often they don’t even realize there are variations of English. Add in their exposure to English worldwide on the Internet – the good, the bad and the truly ugly – and the result is a true hodgepodge of linguistic chaos. Pure anarchy.

Everyone is able to communicate in English, with some mishaps from time to time. So is there really a problem? For simply communicating, probably very little. For writing well and writing professionally. A lot. A heck of a lot. To use the colloquial, a helluva lot. (Yes, it is in Webster’s New World, 4th and 5th editions.)

Our common ground then is an English that can serve us as a useful tool to communicate both informally as well as an advanced tool for writing, be it for your own blog or to submit to The New York Times or the Financial Times.

Fortunately we are entering a time when there are more and more programs and tools to aid us in our writing endeavors (or endeavours). Under Links above, this blog will list some of the most useful sites and programs currently available.


English is not just for the “English”

Talking headsWebsites, text messages, blogs, emails, chat programs, Skype … English dominates communication globally. But the majority of those who use English are non-native speakers. There are approximately 500 million native speakers of English compared to 1.5 billion non-native speakers.

Then there are the native speakers of English who are further divided into various camps. In fact, Amercian-English speakers outnumber the English (that is, British) speakers by at least 5 to 1. Add in the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and the many other countries where English is an official or second language and the picture of a single English language is rather murky.

All in all, the face of English is far from unified. Spell-check programs offer up to 18 varieties of English. Websites often distinguish between British and American English. Some even offer World or International English as an option.

We English speakers, especially the natives, are fiercely loyal to our own particular form, which is understandable since language is a strong component of identity.

The varieties of English serve to strengthen our individual identities and, for the most part, rarely cause a lack of communication. In fact, for international purposes a Common English is evolving that has acquired many names including International English, World English, Global English and even Wenglish and Globish.

It seems natural that a common, international variety will develop from the existing native forms. As in many cases, this can result in a situation called diglossia. Oxford defines diglossia as “A situation in which two languages (or two varieties of the same language) are used under different conditions within a community, often by the same speakers. The term is usually applied to languages with distinct ‘high’ and ‘low’ (colloquial) varieties, such as Arabic.” (See Oxford Dictionaries here)

Do we need a unified form of English? If so, who would decide, where would it be used and which variety should be adopted? This blog will explore these questions and discuss the possibilities from the perspective of those who use English daily.


Hello English speakers worldwide!

English Green

One world, one English, please! The need to communicate concisely and clearly in these times of instant everything has never been greater. English has become the common ground and an excellent tool to help people from all points on the compass understand one another.

Native or second language, we all need help to convey our messages effectively and efficiently. This blog will discuss the issues involved in communicating in the multilingual, multicultural world of the 21st century.

Happy communicating!

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Freedom House World Map, see freedomhouse.org