Bilingualism at Work.

   There is something very interesting that happens when you visit Barcelona (or Catalunya for that matter).  Most residents are bilingual and live in that bilingual world with ease…not very different from Latinos in the US.  Now, I am very clear as to the wide political and philosophical differences that exist in Spain between regions like Catalunya and the nation.  Issues that come from years of being under a dictatorship that did not allow for regional independent behaving or thinking – much less the use of a different language.

But politics aside, if we just look at language use we will find “Catalanes” switching from Spanish to Catalan on a daily basis – as a normal part of their lives.

They will even mix the two (Catanyol?…Spanglish?) in daily conversation.

What is amazing is the ease of this duality.  Granted, maybe the Spanish-English bilingualism combines two very distinct languages, but still these Catalanes are living in two linguistic worlds and easily moving from one to the other.  There is no stress, no loss of either language and no issues in switching depending on present company.

Another important observation: the Catalan bilingualism seems to be even stronger and more pronounced among the younger generation.

A number of writings have stressed the issues and hardship that Latinos in the US go through in having to “manage” two languages (focusing on the language here – I know there are issues when the two cultures collide).  I believe we need to move away from that mentality and focus on the tremendous benefits of bilingualism, the advantages it brings us and the new doors that our youth will be able to open thanks to their bilingual ability.

This brings me to Spanglish – dreaded by many but perhaps not looked at well enough.  Recent studies show that close to 70% of Hispanic millennials use Spanglish some of the time; a number of them use it often.  I believe that number will grow and the amount of Spanglish used will also grow in coming years.

Many advertisers have evaded the use of Spanglish completely – it’s the black sheep of Hispanic advertising.

I tend to disagree.  The icons of advertising have always said that the most effective copy is the one that “speaks in the consumer language”.  Well, what if the Latino millennial language is mostly Spanglish?  It may not apply to all brands or all circumstances, but there definitely will be a place in Hispanic advertising for Spanglish.  Again – it’s what they’re using – if we want to reach and connect with a younger generation of Latinos we must “talk their talk”.

By: Enrique R. Turegano

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