Volume 10, No. 4 
October 2006

  Dr. Eduardo González

Front Page  
Select one of the previous 37 issues.

Index 1997-2006
TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
A Career in European Translation
by Emma Wagner
Interview with Gabe Bokor
by Verónica Albin

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
The Power of Saying "No"
by Danilo and Vera Nogueira
Educating the Customer
by Brett Jocelyn Epstein

  Translators Around the World
Translating Freud: A Historical Experience
by Leandro Wolfson
Certification Programs in China
by Jianjun Zhang

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages—Voice of Translator
by Ted Crump

  Translation Nuts & Bolts
Translation of Vietnamese Terms of Address and Reference
by Thanh Ngo
Dealing with Abbreviations In Translation
by Adetola Bankole

  Language & Communication
"Heads I win, Tails You Lose": Logical Fallacies and Ethics in Everyday Language
by Elena Sgarbossa, M.D.

  Book Review
Dictionary Review: Hungarian Practical Dictionary
by Catherine Bokor, Ph.D.
Book Review: Corinne McKay’s How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator
by Eve Lindemuth Bodeux

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Connotation and Cross-cultural Semantics
by Salah Salim Ali

  Legal Translation
Incongruity of Company Law Terms: Categorization of Polish Business Entities and their English Equivalents
by Łucja Biel, Ph.D.

  The Related Arts
Adding Value to Translation with DTP Partnership
by José Henrique Lamensdorf

Spanglish: To Ser or Not to Be? That is la cuestión!
by Eduardo González, Ph.D.

  Translators Education
Translation As an Aid in Teaching English as a Second Language
by Valeria Petrocchi

  Translators' Tools
Electronic Tools for Translators in the 21st Century
by Pablo Muñoz Sánchez
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Letters to the Editor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies

  Translation Journal



To Ser or Not to Be? That is la cuestión!

by Eduardo González, Ph.D.

Warning: Danger! Spanglish Field Ahead! / Peligro! Campo de Spanglish adelante!

Purists or Ultraconservative Linguists: Read this Article at Your Own Risk!

his is a modest attempt to illustrate what is really pasando en many communities of the USA, Latin America (and Spain!) now en la actualidad. What follows is a combinación—a true melting pot—de Spanglish y jerga popular as it takes place in multi-lingual places like Miami and other communities. A definition of Spanglish will not be attempted here, since it is a process, a dynamic force, a developing trend, "the verbal encounter between Anglo and Hispano civilizations" (Stavans: 2003). Of course, there are many against and very few for—probably many more against than for—Spanglish, but this is only from an academic punto de vista. La realidad on the street is that Spanglish is here to stay. Why? There are many reasons, among them the following:

  • "Natural" or "Spontaneous" Origin: No one can claim that he or she has created Spanglish, as it did happen with Esperanto, with results that fell quite short of expectations (González: The ATA Chronicle, 2005)
  • Economy of language—army - ejército; pompero - ayudante en una estación de gasolina; clockwise - en el sentido de (en que se mueven/como se mueven) las manecillas del reloj; nurse - enfermera; probation (pronounced "provecho") - libertad condicional/vigilada; taxas - impuestos; aseguranza - seguro médico o automovilístico. In these examples, the Spanish equivalents of the words in English or Spanglish are anywhere from twice to seven times longer in the time used for their utterance (González: ATA Conference Proceedings, 2002).
  • The use of terms from English that, in spite of their "old age"—in Internet time—still lack an adequate equivalent in Spanish or the existing equivalents have failed to "catch" among speakers or other languages, in this case Spanish: blog, snuba diving, scuba, aqualung.
  • The need to belong, to feel or "sentir" what is being said, be it when interacting among Spanish- or English-speaking people. This is particularly interesting when young folks get together in venues such as New York, Miami, LA, and other large, multi-lingual and diverse communities.

La realidad on the street is that Spanglish is here to stay.
The main goal of this article is to present examples of the vigor and richness of Spanglish. It is not this author's main objective to write literature in Spanglish but to present it as it is now: a dynamic reality, existing and developing, transcending the narrow boundaries of pidgin or regional varieties. Let us remember Haitian Creole, derogatorily referred to as "patois" not too long ago, and now one of the only three languages in which interpreters can become federally certified in the US together with Spanish and Navajo—and all this in spite of the staunch opposition of purists, especially those who claim to defend the chastity and cleanliness of the Spanish language.

Formally, this article is divided into the following sections:

  • A brief analysis of Spanglish, examples and considerations on mono- and bilingualism
  • A letter written in Spanglish, that is, a complete "immersion" in Spanglish as it is spoken
  • A mini-glossary of Spanglish and familiar terms used by Hispanics, with definitions in English and in Spanish

At http://elcastellano.org (la página del idioma español) there is a section under Espanglish that lists several articles on this phenomenon. As of early 2006, there were four articles that antagonized Spanglish and only one—on Stavans's stand—where some arguments in favor of it were listed. There is also a poem by Rubén Darío ("El Cisne") against the dissemination of English. The author of this article has taken the liberty to write a translation—parody of that poem, with all due respect to Darío, but in reference to Spanglish instead and from an "Anglo" standpoint or punto de vista. After all, Spanish and Spanglish are permeating life in the US as well as in other countries, perhaps as much as English has been doing that for many years now (Fuentes: 2004).

Seremos entregados a los bárbaros fieros?Seremos we delivered to the Hispanic rabble?
┐Tantos millones de hombres hablaremos inglés?So many million hombres (and women) will speak espanglés?
┐Ya no hay nobles hidalgos ni bravos caballeros?┐No quedan ya rednecks or hillbillies in this Babel?
┐Callaremos ahora para llorar después?Will we keep quiet in English to Spanglish speak después?

On inter-relations between English and Spanish, Carlos Fuentes says the following:

Las lenguas se han formado a base de contaminación, de mestizaje, con otras lenguas; [. . .] Yo creo que son muy buenos los contactos, las fecundaciones: una lengua pura, aislada, puede morirse fácilmente [. . .] el español y el inglés están en expansión, son las dos grandes lenguas de Occidente, en gran medida debido a su capacidad de absorción de otras. Las dos derivan, en un sesenta por ciento, de otras. No hay que temerle a esos procesos. (Fuentes, 2004: 1)

This author's intention, thus, is not to alabar, incitar, encourage or propiciar the use of Spanglish, but to reflect a reality that existe and must tenerse en cuenta, especially by language specialists. Some exercises in these language variants are included in my Translation and Interpreting (T-I) classes so that students can translate them into Spanish, then into English (González, Manual: 2005). This way T-I students—many of whom use some of these terms at home and among friends—become able to at least process, de-codify and codify all the information offered in their two (three?) main languages of work at once. Why, one might ask, is it even advisable to do so in T-I training? The reason, among so many others, will be illustrated below. This is part of an interpretation (i.e., oral translation) performed over the phone, by a consecutive interpreter based in Miami and working for the whole US, Mexico and other Hispanic países, countries:

C will stand for the English-speaking client

H will stand for the Spanish-speaking person (from Northern Mexico) dealing with C

I will stand for the Interpreter

C: Why didn't he bring his wife to the hospital earlier?

I: ┐Por qué no trajo a su esposa al hospital más pronto?

H: Pues es que cuando llevaba la vieja para que se aliviara, se me quebró el mueble y, como no tenía aseguranza, pues tuve que pedir un ride...

I: Ma'am, the interpreter needs clarification of a couple of terms. Is it okay if I address this gentleman on my own in Spanish?

C: Of course! Please, go ahead!

I: Señor, ┐qué quiere decir con "el mueble" y "aliviarse"?

H: La troca, m'hijo y que ella iba a dar a luz...a tener un béibi.

I: When he was taking his wife to give birth his pickup truck broke down and, since he had no insurance, he had to ask for a ride. (1)

In the above real-life example, even the clarification of a certain variant of Spanish is given in Spanglish! (mueble = troca/pickup truck; aliviarse = tener un béibi/give birth).

Spanglish has been around for a while and I would contend that perhaps longer than the time when English and Spanish came into contact in the Americas—probably around the time when England, France and Spain held marriages of convenience among their kings, queens, princes and princesses—and does not seem to fade away at all (Johnson: 2006). On a related matter, another phenomenon that becomes apparent in the text below, more the reflection of a conversation than a written treatise, of course, is that of code switching. Many friends and acquaintances in Miami—Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Argentineans, Nicaraguans, Peruvians, Mexicans, Nuyoricans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Ricans, first and second generation Americans of Hispanic descent (this author's children included), even two Spaniards, were able to hold a solid conversation in either English or Spanish, in addition to which they would do code switching every so often, and very naturally. Are they less smart than their monolingual counterparts? Not at all. If anything, they are quick-minded, possess a large vocabulary and a beautiful pronunciation both in English and in Spanish and are extremely vivos, lively and witty! And, no less important, the inclusion of terms and adapted structures from one language into another was not an exclusive trait of Hispanics. It was common to observe—and a delight to hear—Anglos and Haitians peppering their speech in English and Creole with terms in Spanish and in Spanglish. (All references in this section are to this author's almost eleven years of vida activa in Miami).

There are, of course, those who, on account of their many years in the US, have started to forget their Spanish—unless their parents and grandparents keep it alive at home and in their community. Those may favor English more in their conversation, salpicado here and there with some Spanish—at times even Haitian Creole—in Miami. There are those that still maintain a good command of Spanish but need English to "echar pa'lante" in society. They still mix both languages but their Spanish influence is more apparent, especially in their choice of English vocabulary and use of its structures. However, everyone, young and old, immigrant and US-born, uses Spanglish to some degree and that, it seems, is not only to assert their personality and individuality, but to sentir el sabor—enjoy the taste of such language variants. The same happens with related jargons or pidgins, or even new creoles (criollos) like the one developing in the Zona Libre de Corozal located between Belize and Mexico (Murrieta, 2002): it is a way people have to caminar por el camino no trillado, feel they share, that they are in the know and, most importantly, that they belong.

In respect to the way English influences Spanish speakers and makes some purists fear that our US Spanish may become impoverished, we should remember that Hispanics in the US constitute practically the only minority that keeps close ties with its original countries, with the exception of Cubans. Such ties include frequent visits, exchange of letters, invitations to relatives to come to the US and, of course, most activities in this respect are conducted in Spanish.

In the US there are several TV channels and probably hundreds of radio stations that broadcast in Spanish around the clock. This author has studied the TV channels and in them appear speakers from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, etc., most of them with a wonderful, educated speech that becomes ever more attractive because it is neither "neutral" nor too regional. Those TV channels run the gamut of Latin American Spanish through their interviews and news reports with government leaders, educators, poor peasants and laborers, in short, representatives from all levels of education and walks of life in our Hispanic countries. Their soaps, sports, comedies, newscasts, talk shows and other activities greatly contribute to the diffusion of good, normal, typical Spanish! From a historical point of view, it is also important to point out that Spanish already existed in what is today the US long before English made its appearance on this land.

One last point before immersing ourselves in a Spanglish text. In this author's opinion, those who practice Spanglish and code switching, while it is obvious that they master both English and Spanish, constitute a beautiful example of compound bilingualism (Brown: 1987) multilingualism (poliglotismo), and respect for different languages and cultures. As Brown states, "bilinguals may be slightly superior" (52) when he compares them to monolinguals. Or, as Lambert stated as far back as 1962: "they (bilinguals) have a language asset, are more facile at concept formation, and have a greater mental flexibility."

One brief note for those who advocate the need for "English only" in the US and "native," (i.e., US and Great Britain) English as the example on which to base all English as a Second or Foreign Language teaching: In an excellent paper recently published by the British Council, its author, David Graddol, states the following:

Many countries which have declared bilingualism as their goal do not look to the UK, or to the USA as a model, but to Singapore, Finland or the Netherlands. Furthermore, they are increasingly likely to look to English teachers from bilingual countries to help them in their task, rather than to monolingual native speakers of English. (Graddol, 2006:89)

I would add here as examples for comparison, the case of Belgium, Canada and Switzerland.

Further in his paper, Graddol expands on a topic that he names "Can Purism Survive Multilingualism?" and says the following:

English is one of the most hybrid and rapidly changing languages in the world, but that has been no obstacle to its acquiring prestige and power. Not only do languages survive extensive borrowing, but this process often proves a vital mechanism of innovation and creativity: Shakespeare added much to English by borrowing words from Latin, Greek and French (116)

In this author's opinion, the commentary above could very well be modified to apply to many Spanish writers and the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. If it is true that borrowings and calques are perhaps not so obvious in Spanish, many times Spanish prose and poetry have been greatly influenced by French writers such as Proust, Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal and Zola. Writers of extraordinary quality, such as Borges, did not find anything wrong with such "copies" in style, register, even words, and, conversely, with a creative "faithful unfaithfulness" to the original when the matter in question was translation. (2)

In an article written by Cara Anna for the Associated Press on October 5th, 2005 and quoted by Graddol in his paper, it is explained how some immigrants to the USA become multilingual:

"As new immigrants arrive in already diverse neighborhoods, the language they embrace isn't always English. Honduran cooks learn Mandarin, Mexican clerks learn Korean. Most often, people learn Spanish. Language experts say it is a phenomenon that has gone largely unstudied. There are no tidy reports or statistics at hand, but they say the trend could finally help make America a multilingual nation." (Graddol: 118)


(1) Here the interpreter has used third person singular. This is typical of phone consecutive interpreting. This is not the way it is done in courts or other legal frameworks, where the interpreter uses "I" that is, s/he becomes the person for whom s/he is interpreting.

(2) See González, Eduardo, "Creatore vs. Traditore: Borges, Reiss and Others on the Translator's Role" in Confluencia, Fall 2005, Vol. 21, No. 1: 95-101.

Y ahora, it's the time to oír, see and sentir some Spanglish!

"Talk con un pana on my first pasos in La Yuma"


Fue one día like today, hace años, when I first llegué a La Yuma. It wasn't el hielo sino Miami, antes called "The capital of the Cuban exilio" pretty parecida a Cubita la bella, hot and humid, con el español and Spanglish que se escuchaba all around, sobre todo en la Sauesera.

Al día siguiente I went to la Migra to meter papeles y apply por un estato legal. In the meantime, ya empezaba to work doing patios, o sea, cutting grass en las yardas de Miami. Un amigo was already working de junkero y un relative de friends in Cuba bregaba en una pompa. Pa' tener a good job I had to moverme pero didn't have plata for a buen carro, so le compré un tranporteichon a una yoni. It lasted about un año, yompeándolo algunas veces, of course.

I shared a duplex con my familia but other amigos I knew rentaron un efiche. They had to pagar casi the same and had solo one cuarto! Days después I got mi tarjeta con el número del Social and a few semanas later pude landear un better job.

Tenía que trabajar no less than 12 hours por día, but I felt bien, 'coz tenía libertad pa'cer whatever yo quisiera. Empecé a uerkaut y me puse bastante cortao, though not muy grande. Un pana dominicano sí que was really cortao, but él hacía uerkaut more hours por día que yo. También pinché como badiman y otros jobs part time.

Eventually pude landear una pincha pretty good in security, then como translator e intérprete, en lo medical y luego in the legal terreno. I incluso worked en un funeral home y as a teacher! Tuve friends que used to work as pomperos, ruferos, yunkeros, grueros, en tormotos, de dílers, serving mesas, carpeteros, en los desks de los hoteles, como reps, troqueros, vendiendo áiscrim y balloons, but always estudiando y mechándose pa'salir ahead. Nada de janguear con la wrong ganga.

Cuando aquello era fashionable estar faxeando, bipeando y calling de dondequiera. Poco a poco la technology digital fue taking over y los celulares arrived. In one of the pinchas yo tenía (o, perhaps more clarito, tuve) que carry two bípers: uno de voice y el other de numbers. Era bien cool! A few años later, finally me moví pa'l hielo 'coz el dinero was much better. It is cold, pero me visto de oso!

Well, tengo que quitear this paper to ponerme a work de verdad. Espero that tú truly enjoy todo este mejunje de three lenguas: inglés, Spanish and Spanglish.

Take it easy, cógelo suave y no dejes de chill out y relax. Dropéame unas lines!

Hey bro, remember not to janguear con gangas ni los wrong guys: that leads to nothing bueno!

Tu bróder, pana y buen pal.


Not all terms below are in Spanglish. Some belong to regional variants, slang, etc. Since not all Spanglish words are always written, many appear as they are pronounced.

  • aiscrim - Ice cream. Helado

  • bipear - To call on a beeper/to beep. Llamar al bíper

  • bariman - Worker in a body shop

  • bregar* - Puerto Rican variant of Spanish: to work / Bregar, trabajar, laborar

  • bróder - Brother, "my man." Hermano, socio, asere, pana, guey, cuate, carnal, etc.

  • carpetero - Carpet layer, installer. Alfombrista, que instala/pone alfombras

  • cortao - Well cut, muscular, with muscle definition. Musculoso, definido

  • do patios - To cut grass in yards. Euphemistically called "landscaping." Trabajo de jardinería, de poda, de limpieza de patios/jardines/hierba/zacate

  • díler - Car dealer. Persona que vende vehículos en un concesionario

  • dropear - To drop (lines, a letter). Hacer, escribir (unas líneas)

  • efiche - Efficiency apartment. Tiny studio. Miniapartamento con todo junto: el baño, la cocina, el cuarto de dormir, el closet, todo en un solo salón

  • estato - Status. Estatus

  • faxear - To fax. Enviar facsímiles - o enviar por fax

  • ganga - Gang. Banda, grupo

  • grande - Big (from exercise). Ponerse/estar fornido, con volumen, por el ejercicio

  • gruero - From grúa (hoisting crane) in Spanish. It is also used to refer to the person that operates a - tow truck, the type used to pick up broken cars or vehicles that have been involved in an accident

  • hielo (el) - The US North, especially those states where it gets very cold

  • janguear - Hang out; be with. Andar con, hacer/pasar tiempo con

  • jompear, yompear - To jump start a vehicle (with jump cables) usually from another car, with cables de jompear

  • landear - To land, to obtain. Conseguir, obtener

  • mecharse - Cubanism that means to study hard (Burn the midnight oil). Estudiar con ahínco, quemarse las pestañas estudiando

  • mejunje/menjunje/merjunje (**) - Melting pot; mixture, mélange. Ajiaco, mezcolanza, mezcla

  • meter papeles - To fill out papers, applications, documents (usually used by Central America Spanish speakers)

  • migra - Immigration (offices, agents, etc.).

  • moverse - To move from a place to another, to travel. Transportarse, mudarse

  • pana - Derivation of partner: pal, friend, brother, homey. Also used outside the US

  • pincha /pinchar - Term used by Cubans for job, work, place of employment. El empleo, el trabajo, el lugar de trabajo (also curralo/curralar)/ to work

  • pompa - Gas station (from pump). Gasolinera, estación de gasolina

  • pompero - Gas station attendant. Empleado de la gasolinera

  • quitear - To quit. To stop doing something. Dejar, cesar de hacer algo

  • rep - Representative, associate, employee. Empleado, representante

  • rufero - Roofer. Person that lays or fixes roofs. Techero. Reparador de techos.
    (Note: In Cuban slang it also means bus driver or guagüero from rufa=guagua, Cuban terms for bus)

  • Sauesera (Sagüesera) - Miami Southwest, where Little Havana was. In the 90's it was called Little Viet Nam and Cubans were not a majority there any more

  • suave (cogerlo ~) - Take (it) easy, relax. Tomar algo con calma. Relajarse.

  • tormoto - Perhaps from tow motor; forklift. Used by Cubans for montacargas

  • tranporteichon - From transportation, meaning an old car to go to work, to "move"

  • troquero/tróquer - Trucker. Camionero. Chofer de camión

  • uerkaut - Workout and to work out. El ejercicio/entrenamiento físico. Hacer ejercicios físicos

  • vestirse de oso - To dress like a bear. To wear (heavy) coats. Ponerse abrigo y ropa gruesa

  • yoni - From Johnie: American, usually Anglo. Americana/o (used by Cubans)

  • yunkero - Worker at a junk yard. Sometimes applied to those that pick up old cars to dump or sell as scrap. Trabajador de un deshuesadero o rastro

  • yarda - Yard, garden, lawn. Patio, jardín, césped

(*) Bregar no es, como algunos erróneamente creen, un arcaismo en español. Es un verbo con todas las de la ley, utilizado mucho por los puertorriqueños y que aparece aún registrado en el más reciente diccionario de la Academia Española.

(**) Mejunje, with its three spelling variants, is a word of classic Arabic origin, permeated by Hispanic Arabic. It is interesting to notice that in Latin America its meaning is broader than the one included in the Diccionario de la Real Academia de la Lengua Española (2001, Tomo II: 1480)

References and Bibliography


(In some cases, the date listed refers to when the source was consulted, not necessarily the date of the publication appearance)

Castro Roig, Xosé 2004, "El spanglish en la informática" www.elcastellano.org/spanglis.html.

__________. 2005, "Sobre el ciberspanglish y otras ciberidioteces" www.elcastellano.org/spanglis.html.

Fuentes, Carlos 2004, "El español está en expansión" in rodelu.net/culturales.

González, Eduardo 2005 "El español está 'vivito y coleando' de este lado del charquito" in Unidad en la diversidad, portal informativo sobre la lengua castellana, August.

___________ 2004, "La formación cultural de traductores e intérpretes" in elcastellano.org, la página del idioma español (página principal).

Graddol, David 2006, "English Next" in www.britishcouncil.org.

Johnson, Alex 2006, "Spanglish" in www.spainview.com/Spanglish.html.

Valenzuela, Javier 2005, "Un cóctel lingüístico que invade Nueva York,"in www.elcastellano.org/spanglish.html.

___________ 2005, "Defensor del spanglish provoca a lingüistas" (polémica en ciclo de conferencias en Nueva York) in www.elcastellano.org/spanglis.html.


2001, Diccionario de la lengua española, Real Academia Española, Madrid, vigésima segunda edición.

Brown, H Douglas, 1987, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, Prentice Hall.

González, Eduardo 2005, Exercise Manual for the Training of Translators and Interpreters, Xanedu Original Works, Ann Arbor, MI (Third Bilingual Edition).

____________ 2005, "Spanglish: A Reality to be Ignored, or a Dynamic Phenomenon to be Acknowledged?" The ATA Chronicle, American Translators Association, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5.

____________ 2004, "Who Offers Cultural Training?" Proteus, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, Vol. XIII, No. 3, Fall.

____________ 2003, Concise Bilingual Dictionary of Special Idioms, Phrases and Word Combinations, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, in Lambert, Wallace E 1963, "Psychological Approaches to the Study of Language" in Modern Language Journal 47: 114-121.

Murrieta L., Griselda 2002, "Impacto sociolingüístico de la Zona Libre de Corozal, México-Belice"in Anuario de la División de Estudios Internacionales y Humanidades, Universidad de Quintana Roo, Chetumal, Mexico.

Stavans, Ilan 2004, "Spanglish: A User's Manifesto" First International Conference on Spanglish, Amherst, Spanglish@Amherst.edu.

__________ 2004, Spanglish, The Making of a New American Language, Rayo-Harper Collins, New York.