Should Spanglish be spoken on the Net?

Should Spanglish be spoken on the Net?

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As debates rage about the proper place of English and Spanish in both the classroom and the home, (in Texas one judge ordered a Mexican woman to speak English to her American-born child) it should come as no surprise that Latinos around the world are debating the use of Spanglish -- the melding of Spanish and English words -- on the Internet. And the discussion strikes at the heart of larger issues about the possibility of multicultural identity in a world made increasingly borderless by the problems and promises of technology.

According to the Computer Spanglish Web Site, 'computer Spanglish emerges as an add-on to the Spanish language due to the influence of English-speaking machines.' Developed by Yolanda Rives, a Peruvian graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, the site is an effort to bridge the gap between Spanish-speaking users of technology and the English speakers who developed the technology. As Rives explains in her introduction to the dictionary of words she has compiled, 'Computer Spanglish is not only a sign of the evolution of a language, but of its people who are bound by a new medium: The computer.'

Despite Rives enthusiasm, not everyone sees terms like 'drag el mouse' as progress. An article about Rives in the Austin American-Statesman (Aug. 30, 1995) quotes people who believe that accepting Spanglish terms (both online and off) as standard usage is dangerous not only because it dilutes cultural identity, but because Latinos who don't know English will be left out.

For now, there are no clear answers to the larger questions surrounding American bilingualism and its implications for our culture as the development of new technologies renews the debate. In the meantime, there are a handful of other places on the Net that attempt to navigate the middle ground between English and Latino cultures including Mexican/American Border Spaces in Textual Reality, a MOO developed out of a University of Texas class about NAFTA and the US/Mexico border.

Original to Utne Reader Online