It’s not as simple as Spanish + English = Spanglish

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



The Gift of Language Proficiency Certification this Holiday Season

boss shaking employee's hand, congratulatingThe spirit of giving is in the air as the holiday season approaches. What better way can you show your employees that you care about their futures than by giving them the gift of language proficiency certification? Whether you are in academia, healthcare, hospitality, construction, technology (or any another industry), we are experiencing demographic shifts and linguistic diversity in the business world. These changes require us to have a good understanding of how to utilize our team’s bilingual skills by not only investing in employees, but also by enhancing customer satisfaction and our ability to capture market share.

As you plan your holiday gift giving in your organization, consider providing your multilingual employees the opportunity to obtain a language proficiency certificate. The value that multilingual employees bring to businesses is undeniable as the data from a research study conducted by ACTFL called “Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers,” show. Here are four benefits you can bring to your business by gifting your employees with language proficiency certification.

1. It creates pathways for career advancement for multilingual staff.

Approximately 34% of employees reported a foreign language gap when asked if their employees could meet their foreign language needs. Therefore, to fill the gap, consider language proficiency testing, tracking, and training as a critical component of an employee’s professional development plan.

2. It empowers your team to engage non-English speaking customers.

Communicate, engage, and interact with your customers in their preferred language to build brand awareness and loyalty. Over 58% of employers reported that their employees communicated in a foreign language both externally with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders as well as internally with fellow coworkers. The demand is there by non-English speaking customers, you just need to empower your team with the language skills to fulfill that need.

3. It allows you to utilize the skills of your multilingual staff and grow your global market share.

“With a five-year outlook, employers in the healthcare and social assistance sector are the most likely to expect an increase in demand (64 percent), followed by employers in trade (59 percent), education services (57 percent), professional and technical services (55 percent) and construction (54 percent).” (ACTFL, pg. 4). And there are no signs of those trends slowing down – so, empower your multilingual staff to strengthen your company’s connection with your local customers and community while growing your market share globally.

4. It incentivizes multilingual employees by certifying their language skills.

With ACTFL language certification delivered through LTI, your multilingual employees will have an opportunity to validate their level of language proficiency in over 120 languages. This certification not only boosts their confidence in their current roles, it but also enhances their communication skills both locally and abroad. 97% of U.S. employers reported using foreign language capacity domestically and 54% deployed them overseas. So, if your organization isn’t currently utilizing the skills of multilingual employees, it is likely that your competition is. Incentivize your multilingual employees by certifying their language skills.

The season of giving is upon us, and language proficiency is a gift that keeps on giving…to your employees, customers, and community. Get your bilingual and multilingual staff members language proficiency certification this holiday season!


Source: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (2019). Lead with Languages. Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers,

Recognizing The Importance of In-Culture and In-Industry Language Proficiency

Business woman interviewing for a job

Many companies would agree that possessing the ability to communicate with diverse audiences, potential customers, or clients, and even with potential investors or strategic partners in more than one language is a valuable asset to have. After all, 75% of consumers say they’d be more likely to make a purchase from a company that had customer support speak their language1, and 56.2% of consumers reported they’d be willing to pay a higher price if a company provides information in their own language2.

However, companies and in-house HR professionals who have ventured down this path know it’s never easy to find the perfect candidates. On top of all the time it takes to review resumes, and to schedule and conduct the minimum number of interviews required for any job opening, hiring candidates based on their language proficiency presents even more hurdles.

For starters, if the HR representative or hiring manager are not fluent in the language they are hiring for, how do they evaluate the candidate’s proficiency, or their ability to communicate in the language in a professional setting?

Language Testing International (LTI) helps our clients reduce that time by eliminating the guesswork of whether candidates who claim to be fluent truly possess the language skills required for the job. Recent survey results showed that about 60% of all job applicants will overstate their abilities, including language proficiency3. From the start, ACTFL language proficiency assessments delivered by LTI give employers the confidence to know that their candidate, whether they are a new hire or a current employee you want to train from within, has the right level of language proficiency for the role. As the exclusive licensee of the ACTFL assessments, LTI provides opportunities for employers to administer valid and legally defensible tests to measure language proficiency.

Conversely, for the job applicant, verifying their language skills with LTI demonstrates a strong work ethic every employer looks for. Companies seeking to reach customers around the world look favorably on an applicant who is culturally aware and has the required language abilities to help grow their business and generate new revenue. Reports show that bilingual employees can earn up to 20% more than those who speak only one language4.

Celia Patitucci, an HIV educator and tester based out of Central Florida, also advises that it is very important to also become culturally competent in addition to having high proficiency in a language: “It’s not just knowing the language, it’s also knowing the culture.” Knowing the language and the culture of the language you speak go hand in hand.

Celia has worked on the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases for more than five years. In a recent episode of LTI’s podcast LANGUAGE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER, Celia shared key insights with us regarding why it is import for bilingual job candidates to take their language proficiency to a professional level.

“I think that one of the things that people need to do when they speak a second language is also take it to the level of professional speaking. It’s not the same as being able to speak the language,” Celia said. “You should be proficient in a professional setting. You should also be able to write and read it in a professional setting. For example, if somebody speaks Spanish, it doesn’t mean that when it comes to work it translates [the same way]. There’s terminology you need to learn.” She advised, for “somebody that might speak Spanish and wants to advance their career, they should look at what field they’re in and learn that terminology in that language.”

Celia explains that this is important because “sometimes you learn things, and we live here, and we learn that terminology in English. And then, you have to stop and you’re not sure. When you’re in front of your customer or your client or your patient, you have to be able to say those words in Spanish. And you have to be able to use the right terminology, and you have to be able to explain it to them in their language, because, if you’re having to do it in Spanish or Portuguese or Creole, you can’t be going back and forth with Spanglish, because that might confuse your client. So, do your research,” she said. “Just because you speak the language, it doesn’t mean you’re proficient within your field.”

From her own experience, Celia stated, “I’m telling you because that’s one of the first things I had to do is learn this terminology in Spanish. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. That is my first language. But I did not use medical terms in my everyday life in Spanish. So, when I became a tester and when I became a part of the community in this capacity I had to go and look it up. I had to go and look it up and translate and make sense of it, for me first, so I can express it to whoever I was serving at that point.”

There is tremendous value in leveraging ACTFL language certifications delivered by LTI for companies and HR professionals who are looking for qualified candidates, as well as for bi/multi-lingual professionals seeking to advance their careers.

You can provide affordable, valid, and legally defensible language proficiency testing with LTI. Visit to get started.

To learn more about Celia’s story, listen to our podcast here.






Backward Design and the AAPPL

newspaper clipping

By Chris Lemon, Northmont High School, Clayton, OH (Spanish Teacher, Department Chair)

Comprehensible input. Movies. Language Clubs. Guest speakers. Pirates. Conversations. Fly swatter vocabulary matches. Video Pen Pals. Study abroad.

A language program can take many forms and have some—or none—of these. But how do you achieve one that is authentic, fun, and successful all at once?  You use backward design to make your curriculum match your goals, and a reliable assessment to measure student success and adjust instruction.

Our goal: Seniors will earn the Ohio Seal of Biliteracy, i.e., perform at the Intermediate High level in all domains. Research shows that most students need five years to achieve this goal, so we built an 8th grade program. We redesigned our curriculum to move students from Novice Low to Intermediate High with engaging topics along the way.

We chose the AAPPL (ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages) because it is specific, reliable, accurate, cost-effective, and flexible. In the first two years only a couple students scored Intermediate High or better in all four areas to earn the Seal. Our students averaged Intermediate High for listening but well below in the other areas.

So, what did we do? We kept the language clubs, pirates, and fly swatter games, but we added a new library and refocused our instruction and assessments on comprehension and production. We expanded our pen pal program and added more guest speakers and got the attention of our community and administrators. We have been featured in the local newspaper twice to honor our Seal of Biliteracy recipients.

Last year, seven students scored Intermediate High or better. This year at least ten. By focusing on areas of weakness identified on the AAPPL score reports, last year we went above and beyond the national averages in all four communication skills, but especially in writing and speaking.

The AAPPL covers technology, traditions, family, and more, and my students who are being “taught to the test” usually say my class is their most creative and interesting one.

The variety of topics we now cover mean that I enjoy class more, too. We still teach grammar, but we focus on grammar in context.

Our students have a solid view of their own progress, pride in what they can do, and a clear idea of where to go next. If you want to strengthen your program or design one from the ground up, maybe the AAPPL is the place to go next for you.



Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.