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By Gemma Torres



Bill James is an american comedian who has discovered a gold mine for acting in spanglish. Also just released a book being a sales success with the hilarious title that heads this post, and in which one can find “Everything you ever wanted to know about Spanglish, but were afraid to ask“.

The phenomenon of languages in contact is fascinating. I live in the Basque Country, an area where the words in basque and in Spanish, are passed from one language to another without the greatest obstacle to be understood by the speakers. In fact there are many words that the speakers of basque (even those who do not know basque) are not aware that they are basque and not Spanish and only have found this when someone from the outside would not understand.

I remember saying to a child in Jaca if he was going to climb to the txirristra without which the poor could understand where I thought I was going to upload, but I had never said or had heard in San Sebastian slide that would be the meaning of txirristra, and we even went to the point of conjugating the verb according to the grammatical rule to Spanish, and we say txirristrarse and never go down the slide.

Bill James explained in an interview that is there are words that “can not be translated”, “do not want to say the same thing”, “how says one in English flip-flops?”. Speakers are bilingual they have a mental space in which the two languages are intermingled and machiembran and that when they are in a context in which they can speak without restraint -in family, between friends – the two languages are mixed in the moment of speaking and the speaker chooses the word that best fits what you want to say, without stopping to think whether it is Spanish or English, basque or Spanish.

Some think that this is a horror and an abomination, but to me it seems that the languages in contact are enriched and that the speakers are bilingual (and those who love bilingual) have a linguistic heritage in duplicate.


Gemma Torres

July 5, 2012
Also published in south of the border