Don Quixote in Spanglish

Photo: Elvis González/EFE

Don Quixote in Spanglish

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This “new” version comes out next year

A graphic version in “Spanglish” of Don Quixote is evidence of the increasing presence – and relevance – of this trend to mix English and Spanish during every-day life in the United States, where almost 40 million people speak this “third language.”

“In un placete de La Mancha of which nombre no quiero remembrearme, vivía, not so long ago, uno de esos gentlemen who always tienen una lanza in the rack, una buckler antigua, a skinny caballo y un grayhound para el chase...” begins the first paragraph of the translation of Ilan Stavans' Don Quixoje, Latin Culture professor at the Amherst College, Massachusetts.

Stavans, who has already translated into “Spanglish” several renowned titles such as El Principito and Hamlet, decided to embark upon this adventure because “'Spanglish', as a language, is irreversible.”

“It doesn't exist because of a dream, it exists out of necessity,” claims the professor, whose comic version of the classic novel of Cervantes will come out next year, with illustrations by Venezuelan artist Roberto Weil and published by the Pennsylvania State University Press.

And he's not alone. This Mexican-American explains to EFE there are several American publishers, like Harper Collins, “daring to publish” in this “charming language”.

Stavans believes we're living a “transition moment from the oral expression of the 70's and 80's to a much more solid written expression, with different narrative and lexicographic strategies.”

“Despite certain terrible policies of the current American government,” says Stavans regarding the speech of American President Donald Trump on immigration, “we're living a very important moment of multilingualism regarding job offers.”

“During the 70's, 'Spanglish' was a term encompassing Latin communities; it wasn't thought of as a collective language. It's during the 80's when Hispanics gain a huge presence, and in the 90's when 'Spanglish' becomes something transnational and national at the same time,” says Stavans.

Contrary to this argument, linguist Andrew Lynch, professor at the University of Miami, claims “Spanglish” isn't “a language in itself”.

“From a sociolinguistic approach, there is no 'Spanglish'. What we commonly know is a way of speaking in lower registers, in slang, in an oral setting,” says Lynch.

“It's about alternating codes, loans or borrowed words, and this happens in other societies where two languages interact,” he says, setting as an example the “Chinglish” in San Francisco, or “Quechuañol” in Peru.

Without a doubt, the expanding Hispanic community in the U.S. – close to 60 million people – has pushed Spanish into the country.

Nevertheless, first-generation immigrants speak mostly in Spanish, second generations are bilingual, and the third generation has serious trouble understanding the language; this is when “Spanglish” becomes relevant.


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