Hispanic millennials are turning their backs on Spanglish—a slang that mixes English-language norms into Spanish—and instead opting for proper American English.
“The typical trend is that the first [generation] prefers to speak Spanish, the second generation is bilingual, and the third generation is generally monolingual,” Jody Agius Vallejo, an associate professor of sociology at USC who studies immigrant integration told the Los Angeles Times.
But there is more going on than the natural trajectory of how immigrant groups assimilate to become Americans.
The fading of Spanglish, not unlike Ebonics, could be a response to two separate trends we have seen over the last decade: terrorism and gender-empowerment.
Spanglish flourished in the 1980s and 1990s. Two factors fueled its rise. The first was the economic collapse of Latin America, an international debt crisis precipitated when Mexico was forced to devalue the peso in August 1982. The ensuing economic crisis resulted in a “lost decade” from Mexico to Argentina. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans moved to the United States as economic refugees.
Then there were the “dirty wars” in Central and South America that saw hundreds of thousands of political refugees flee to the United States, giving rise to “sanctuary cities,” especially in California.
The result was the influx of Spanish-dominant immigrants—economic and political refugees alike—many of whom struggled to learn English. As they became acculturated, they began to “forget” their Spanish vocabulary. “Lunch” replaced “almuerzo;” “troco,” a corruption of “truck,” replaced “camion.”
Waves of Spanish-dominant immigrants struggled with acculturation on their way to assimilation. In the process they availed themselves to “Spanglish”— a mix of English and Spanish that consists of calques and semantic extensions. Calques are literal, word-for-word translations of words or phrases from one language into another. For example, “I’ll call you back” becomes “Te llamo para atrás,” instead of “Te devuelvo tu llamada.” Semantic extension refers to a phenomenon when speakers use a word more similar to that of a second language in place of their own. For example, “Close the window because it’s raining,” becomes “Cierra la window que está reinando.”