Spanglish no more

by Translation Guy on March 8, 2010

Last year, the North American Academy of the Spanish Language teamed up with the US government to stamp out Spanglish.  The institution — a group of academics who regulate the use of Cervantes’ language in the U.S. — is guiding the government in its quest to supply official information in correct Spanish to the 40 million Hispanics living here.

Claudio Torrens at the Daily News as much as called the Academy the Spanish Inquisition. And we all know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

This ʻinquisition,ʼ known in Spanish as the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española  (ANLE), is based in New York and is directed by writer Gerardo Piña-Rosales, Professor of Spanish Language and Literature at Lehman College, City University of New York.

These Norteamericanos are the newest members of the venerable group of Spanish academies descended from the ultimate authority of the Spanish language: the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE).  The RAE was founded in 1713 in Madrid with the objective of stopping Gallicisms and other corruptions that threatened the Spanish language. The stated purpose of the RAE was to “clean up, define, and give splendor” to Castilian Spanish.  From 1726-1739, the RAE published the six volumes of the Diccionario de autoridades. These were the precursors to the famous Diccionario de la lengua española, first published by the RAE in 1780 and the definitive reference point for the Spanish language. Over the last 250 years, Spanish language academies have been founded in all of the Spanish-speaking countries.

Recently, the United States government and ANLE signed an agreement creating rules and quality standards for Spanish in order to improve and standardize official government documents, information programs, and internet information. The agreement between ANLE and the General Services Administration establishes that ANLE will be consulted on terminology, grammar, vocabulary, style, and other matters. It also recognizes the Academy as the highest authority on Spanish in the United States

“We are very proud of the agreement, and it benefits us by putting us in contact with the public at large,” said Gerardo Piña-Rosales, the Academy’s president.  “We are not a language police,” he noted. “We want Hispanics to learn English, but all the while maintaining Spanish as their mother tongue.”

Under the new partnership, the government will consult with ANLE on the use of new coined expressions in the U.S., technical translation, and grammar issues.

“This is unprecedented,” said Laura Godfrey, co-manager of the government’s Spanish-language website, “ANLE and the [U.S. government] have a common mission: to improve and standardize the use of Spanish in government communications to better serve the public.”

To fight against the onslaught of sloppy español, the Academy is helping create a Dictionary of False Cognates and has helped develop the “Nueva Gramática,” a massive 3,000-page volume that will become the first official Spanish grammar guide in 78 years.

Is there such a thing for English?  I’m against prescriptive grammar, kind of, as a roast-beef eating English speaker, but the great reference works of the Spanish language make it easy for everyone to agree on what’s right and proper. Our Spanish linguists hang on their every word. Good for business.

While good Spanglish is bad grammar to sticklers like us, on the street it’s a different story, and I am nothing if not East Side street-wise here in Turtle Bay, yo. Spanglish is the lengua para today y el futuro.


  1. Nelida K. says:

    I am a stickler too, and I wholly support the movement to preserve a quantum of correctness in Spanish, avoiding horrors like “vacumear la carpeta” (instead of “pasar la aspiradora a la alfombra”) or “te llamo p’atrás” (carbon-copying “I’ll call you back” instead of “te devuelvo el llamado”). Otherwise, unless the trend goes unchecked, Spanish will rapidly turn into English spoken with Spanish words. IMHO.

  2. David says:

    >> These Norteamericanos are the newest members…

    That’s some Spanglish right there (depending on how you define it).

    @Nelida K.

    vacuum the carpet = aspirar la alfombra
    call = la llamada.

    Creolization ( happens when languages come into contact and is unavoidable. Artificial attempts to “purify” and “correct” language simply don’t work because language evolves based on usage, not based on the desires of the elite few.

  3. PoorHeart says:

    Spanglish is also a terrible movie..

  4. Zolof says:

    Crazy pidgin language!

  5. Matty says:

    Spanglish is not a pidgin language. It is totally informal; there are no hard-and-fast rules and not all simplified or “broken” forms of a language are “pidgin”. Each “pidgin” language has its own norms of usage which must be learned to speak the “pidgin” language well.

  6. Cougerstyles says:

    Yep, similar code switching used in Gibraltar is called Llanito….

  7. Twitcher says:

    David makes a very interesting argument. Perhaps by attempting to preserve languages as they are, we are hindering their natural evolution into new languages.

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