What is Spanglish? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Spanglish (Span·glish | \ ˈspaŋ-glish) is various combinations of Spanish and English, which is primarily “Spanish marked by numerous borrowings from English.” Often used by multilingual Spanish speakers, it “comes after learning one’s native language,” by those that are integrated into both Spanish and English-speaking communities but may not involve the complete integration into either one, but rather a hybrid of both cultures through verbal encounters (Berly, 2019, para. 1). Spanglish has become known as a mixed, creole or “non-standard form of either language” [Spanish or English] with regional variations based on who is speaking it, where it is spoken, the cultural idioms and phrases used, as well as the context in which it is being spoken. For example, the Spanglish that may be spoken by Mexican Americans in California (often referred to as Tex-Mex and Chicano), differs in linguistic structure from the one spoken by Cuban Americans in Florida, often referred to as Cubonics. This serves as evidence that English + Spanish = more than just Spanglish, but that it is a linguistic expression and anthropological journey that for many Spanglish speakers is a part of their identity (Hernandez, 2004).
As a result of the mixing of English and Spanish as well as the regional variations, there is an ongoing debate regarding the “legitimacy” of Spanglish as a language. Initially viewed as slang or a degradation of either the English or Spanish language by some researchers, linguists and Spanish experts view it as a bicultural, cross-pollination of the two.
The primary components of a legitimate language involve borrowing and code-switching. In research conducted by Amy Hernandez, MA (2004) titled Spanglish: A Study of The Features of Bilingual Speakers in Georgia, she states “For a combination of two languages to be considered a new language, borrowing must occur, but not simply in the lexicon. Structural features such as phonological, phonetic, syntactic, and sometimes (though rarely) morphological elements must also be borrowed” (Thomason & Kaufman, 1988). Aligned with borrowing is code switching, which entails the speaker’s sociolinguistic understanding and cultural exposure as it relates to their social setting, the context variables, and ability to use language to communicate. In other words, the bilingual capabilities of Spanglish speakers go beyond their linguistic skills, but also include the multicultural understanding they possess to navigate their respective Spanish, English, and Spanglish cultures.
Language and culture are huge components of one’s identity. It speaks to who we are as individuals and as part of our community. As a result, Spanish + English ≠ Spanglish. It is so much more! The point is that language is a fluid code system, and Spanglish speakers may have varying levels of proficiency in each language. Testing the proficiency in both English and Spanish can give a person insight into his/her proficiency level and certify his/her language skills.
If you want to test your language proficiency and obtain a formal and legally defensible certification of your proficiency, visit LTI at www.languagetesting.com.