Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Spanglish for Africans

Last weekend we visited a friend in the Madrid suburb of Torrejón, one of the older suburbs near where the U.S. had a military base. Julián loved the ride, sitting on our laps and staring out at all the cars on the highway. He also gave a lot of attention to the two African immigrants sitting across the aisle, who were either going home to the very mixed barrio that is Torrejón or going to work in the nearby industrial park. I've noticed that raising him to be bilingual has made him very interested when someone is speaking a language he doesn't understand.

I'm not sure what he thought of these guys. They were speaking some language I couldn't identify, but every now and then they slipped into Spanish. It amazed me to hear Africans doing what us guiris do, mix our language with the local one. But a moment's thought would show that it's only natural.

So what do you call their version of Spanglish? Spahili? No, Swahili is East African, and I'm pretty sure they were Nigerian. But which of the 512 Nigerian languages were they using to make their own Spanglish? Hausa? Igbo? Yoruba? It's nice to think that there are people speaking Spausa, Spigbo and Sporuba out there. Lots of Spaniards complain about immigrants and their bad language skills, but isn't Spanglishizing the first step towards fluency?

All the other immigrants do too. The French speak Spench, I've heard Romanians speaking Spomanian, and the Germans. . .well, never mind.


Anonymous said...

At the end I could read this blog.... and I found out that Torrejon is a suburb... well, I suppose this is one of the difficulties among languages...the double meaning of words. For me, as a Spaniard, suburb has a negative meaning even though you can translate it as "afueras" as well as "suburbio"... but I prefer to call my town "ciudad"....jajajaja...
I like your blog, anyway!!

Sean McLachlan said...

Turns out "suburbio" sounds low class in Spain since the poorer people traditionally lived on the edge of cities, the exact opposite of North America, where "inner city" is synonymous with "poor". There are rich suburbs in Spain now, as more people get cars and want to have bigger houses than are available in the cities.

Anyway, Torrejon is a nice place, whatever you want to call it. :-)