By: Meredith Moon, Copywriter & Editor-In-Chief
Today is National Grammar Day, which for most people is a complete non-event. However, this immense body of largely unspoken (for native speakers) rules governs the way we communicate and gives us a lens through which we judge people.
In English, words like ain’t, spelling mistakes and double negatives all indicate, to some, that the speaker is not well educated. This perceived lack of education might reveal the speaker’s socio-economic status and will potentially have an effect on their job prospects and social circle. We make automatic assumptions about people based on how they use grammar. So it’s kind of a big deal.
We also all make mistakes at times when using our own language. It now seems socially acceptable to say ‘there’s many examples…” instead of “there are many examples…” Younger generations invent their own jargon and even their own dialects to communicate with each other, and just because a word isn’t accepted in the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t mean that it is incorrect. Language is a living being, constantly molding itself to fit the times. History has dictated such and will continue to do so as long as we inhabit the Earth (and maybe even when we don’t).
This brings me to Spanglish. Language purists would argue that you can either speak Spanish or English, but the mixture of the two is not acceptable. Some call this attitude snotty though—a lot of people actually, since it is not the reality of how we humans use language. Code switching is the technical term in linguistics for using two or more languages in one continuous conversation. It is a well-documented phenomenon and Spanglish is but one example of it. If you are interested in more anecdotal insights into Spanglish, check out this article on PRI about Spanglish back when California was still Mexico, or this one in the Huffington Post, which is a personal account of growing up with English, Spanish and Spanglish.
Personally, I am a native English speaker with no Hispanic heritage. I speak fluent Spanish and now Spanglish as well. Some words translate between the two languages and some don’t, so it is easier and more accurate to use the words that best represent what you are trying to express, whether they be in English or Spanish. As long as the person you are talking to understands, I don’t see a problem with it.
Brands like AT&T and McDonald’s are now incorporating Spanglish into their messaging, too. The video that AT&T produced to target millennials is spot on, and McDonald’s Twitter handle @MeEncanta perfectly intertwines the two languages in a way that feels natural. This AdWeek article outlines a few other brands that have been successful with this strategy. These companies have caught on to how many Hispanic millennials use their languages and are following the words of William Butler Yeats:
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.