Dr. Potowski asks her audience, ¿chisme o verdad?
- The U.S. is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world
- U.S. Spanish is not recognized in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española
- Some U.S. Spanish speech is ungrammatical
- Spanglish is a mix of Spanish and English, and is ultimately damaging to Spanish
- Spanish teachers should aim to eliminate Spanglish and have student pass for monolingual Spanish speakers
Quick to quell any misinformation, Dr. Potowski explains that all five statements are indeed chisme and “that they have important implications for working in classroom with U.S.-raised Spanish speakers.”
With 34.8 million Spanish speakers, the United States can be considered the fifth largest Spanish speaking nation, but the “34.8 million does not include 11 million undocumented Latin Americans residing in the U.S., nor does this include the 2.8 million non-Latinos, like [Dr. Potowski], who speak Spanish.” Considering these new calculations, the United States’ Spanish speaking population increases to an incredible 48.6 million. At 48.6 million speakers, the United States would be the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world.
With regard to chisme number two, Dr. Potowski states that, in 2012, la Real Academia Española “accepted the word ‘estadounidismo’ to refer to Spanish words that are used differently in the United States.” As a result, la Real Academia Española recognizes dialectical differences in U.S. Spanish. Most importantly, Dr. Potowski reminds us all languages have the same intrinsic value, but “It’s society that says, this one’s better than that one. Certain varieties have more prestige than others. We see this with all languages.”
To the claim that U.S. Spanish is ungrammatical, Dr. Potowski asks: “What does that mean?” In her discussion of prescriptivism, Dr. Potowski regards this analogy: “If you are driving a taxi, it is impossible to violate laws of physics…If you are speaking a language in a way that you acquired naturally within a community of speakers, it is impossible to violate the laws of grammar.”
The third chisme leads into the fourth and fifth, that Spanglish is damaging to Spanish and that teachers should quell Spanglish. Spanglish offers four linguistic phenomena: “code switching (alternating between languages), borrowings (words imported from English and integrated into Spanish), extensions (using “aplicar” and “pretender” to mean “apply” and “pretend”), and calques (word-for-word translation).”
To Dr. Potowski, it is important that her students “take pride in the way they speak Spanish” and that Spanglish, a term that she believes suggests that the language is not in fact Spanish and is ultimately a damaging term, is an indicator of students’ multilingualism. She suggests that there is nothing wrong with a language influenced by English, that there is no “incorrect” or “correct” Spanish, but rather formal and informal speech.
An interesting discussion, Dr. Kim Potowski continues to amaze with her tremendous work on multilingual studies. If you found this article interesting, please read our last post on Dr. Potowski’s TED talk!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher