Saturday, May 16, 2009

Deciphering (e)Spanglish

There are two types of Spanglish (a combination of Spanish and English) in Argentina:

1. Espanglish: This is spoken by native speakers of Spanish who may or may not know English, but use many English words which they have Spanishized to sound almost unrecognizable to an native English speaker. 

2. Spanglish: This is spoken by native English speakers who also have a relatively good command of Spanish, but when speaking to other people in either language stick a word from the other language because it either doesn't have a good translation or translates in a hilarious way.  

Espanglish for a North American is especially funny because often after saying the English word in the sentence of Spanish words, the Argentine speaker will look at the foreigner slyly as if they are sharing a language secret together.   From my experience, either the word does not make a lot of sense in the context of the sentence or I was not aware that the word was actually borrowed from English because of a completely unfamiliar pronunciation.  There are exceptions to this: words like internet and router have become so much a part of the everyday speech that I scarcely think of them as borrowed words anymore.  However, there are cases where the words although still spelled the same in English are pronounced differently because of letter pattern that does not exist in Spanish.  An example of this is modem or .com, which are pronounced "moden" and "punto con" because there are no original words in Spanish that end with an n sound.  

In my journalism graduate program, one of my professors Gabriel Pasquini recently explained interviews to us.  On the record and Off the record are used and seem to be more or less widely understood.  However, the most hilarious phenomenon happens whenever English words are borrowed but contain more than one word (or even more than one syllable).  On the record becomes on and off the record becomes off.  My favorite example of this is Playstation which is just called play.  Thinking about that in English it would sound quite silly to say "I am going to play the Play", but in Spanish because the verb for play is jugar, it sounds fine and it is easier to say.  Pasquini recently apologized to me for his pronunciation of words in English during class, but admittedly, sometimes the words were butchered so sufficiently that I just assumed it was a word that I didn't know in Spanish rather than an English word stuck randomly into a phrase.

Although not necessarily Espanglish, English speakers have endless problems with understanding names of bands or actors in Spanish.  Groups as common as  Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan, become a mash of Spanishized words, and the confusion turns to disbelief when you wrongly admit to not knowing the famous icon of American history, but only because you simply do not know what is being said.  

Espanglish in Argentina is much more prominent than in Spain; I notice words such as background, feeling, full, etc. used more often in the Southern Cone than in Europe.  My theory is that because Spanairds are more rigid about speaking proper Castilian Spanish, stealing random words from English is not exactly upholding tradition.  There is a pride and sometimes arrogance from Argentines about their way of speaking, but the rules are often more relaxed than in the Iberian Peninsula where Spanish was born.

Spanglish, often spoken here by me with other North Americans or Argentines whose English is at a native level, is not done of out custom or habit, but rather done of out of a playful appreciation for the language or a frustration in translating certain words that do not have an exact translation in the other language, but rather a less concise way of explaining the concept.  An example of this is the word glare.  If I am speaking with a native English speaker in Spanish and want to describe someone squinting their eyes in anger, I will simply say: "Me estaban glaring las mujeres grandes." for example.  This is only possible because the person I am speaking with knows both languages.  Similarly, if we are speaking in English, one might say that they have ganas, because it is simply a concise way of saying that you want to or you feel like doing something.  When I take notes in lecture in either language, I always use the word según which means according to, because it is shorter and quicker. 

Spanglish is especially fun to use to translate things that make zero sense translated from Spanish to English or visa versa or have a sexual connotation.  For example, the ubiquitous "I'm excited" in English when said in Spanish "Estoy exitada", means that you are horny, so ojo (be careful).  Someone with a command of both languages knows that "I have hungry" or "it is making/doing cold outside" is not right but very chistoso [funny].  Or simply conjugating English verbs in Spanish provides for language fun; I have countless said "te loveo" or "te misso".

For people not familiar with Spanish, I want to briefly explain why the first type of Spanglish I am donning Espanglish and the second is simply Spanglish.  In Spanish, native speakers cannot pronouce words that begin with "sp" and "st", so my last name Stingl becomes Estingl.  This makes sense because it is Spain in English is España in Spanish.  Or as a North American friend pointed out last night, when she says Scalabrini Ortiz (an important street in Buenos Aires), she is often not understood until she says Escalabrini Ortiz.  Thus, Espanglish for Argentines and Spanglish for me.