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Spanglish, A New American Language

<I>'Spanish: The Making of a New American Language'</I>, by Ilan Stavans
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'Spanish: The Making of a New American Language', by Ilan Stavans

A car ad on a Spanish-language radio station in New York mixes directions in Spanish with the phrase "quality-checked certified pre-owned vehicles." A sign in Springfield, Mass. warns young Latinos: "No Hangear" -- don't hang out on this corner. Spanglish -- a cross between Spanish and English -- it seems, is everywhere. NPR's Bob Edwards talks about the language mix with Ilan Stavans, author of a new book, Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language.

Stavans, professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, says Spanglish changes so fast it's hard to pin down. His book includes a Spanglish dictionary. Some examples: "Backupear" is to back up a car, "yarda" is yard, "pregneada" is pregnant.

Though Spanglish has been around for some time, some people worry that it will corrupt the English language. But Stavans says its use can be inspiring.

"There are many people out there that speak English, Spanish and Spanglish. It is a language that, to this day, academics [distrust], that politicians only recently have begun to take it more into consideration. But poets, novelists and essayists have realized that it is the key to the soul of a large portion of the population."

"Latinos are learning English," he says. "That doesn't mean that they should sacrifice their original language or that they should give up this in-betweeness that is Spanglish. Spanglish is a creative way also of saying, 'I am an American and I have my own style, my own taste, my own tongue.'"

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