Spanglish usage is on the rise among Gen-Z
A recent survey conducted by The Latino Mosaic has shed light on a fascinating linguistic trend among the younger generation of Latinos in the United States. The survey reveals that approximately 20% of Gen Z Latinos feel most comfortable speaking Spanglish, a hybrid language that combines elements of both Spanish and English, in their daily conversations. This percentage significantly surpasses the figures reported by other generations, with only 14% of millennials, 10% of Gen Xers, and a mere 5% of boomers expressing similar preferences. These findings indicate a growing acceptance and embrace of Spanglish as a form of communication within the Latino community.
According to Axios Latino, the shift toward Spanglish usage among Gen Z can be seen as part of a broader movement to reclaim and celebrate aspects of Latino heritage that were once discouraged. For many years, older generations were encouraged to assimilate into American culture, often at the expense of their native language. However, Gen Z Latinos are proudly reclaiming their linguistic roots, expressing a desire to speak Spanish or a modified version of it that incorporates English words and phrases. This shift represents a significant departure from the assimilationist mindset of previous generations.
While seemingly a contemporary product of globalization, Spanglish has existed for almost 200 years. According to a paper by Daniel Joseph Villas, a professor of Linguistics at New Mexico State University, the historical roots of Spanglish can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century, after the Mexican American War. In 1848, after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Mexico ceded more than half of its territory to the United States, including present-day states such as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and others. As a result, Mexican citizens residing in these territories automatically became U.S. citizens, leading to the emergence of bilingual communities.
This led to the arrival of many English-speaking inhabitants from the eastern United States. Therefore, Spanish and English entered into coexistence, creating a process of linguistic exchange. For example, English-speaking speakers found fauna, flora, and cultural elements that they had not seen before and about which they had no words in the vocabulary of their native language. To be able to talk about them, they incorporated Spanish words such as mesquite, tomato, coyote, armadillo, tortilla, enchiladas, and tequila. This historical encounter between the two languages laid the foundations for the evolution of Spanglish as a distinctive linguistic phenomenon.
And now, this combination of language is also present in the last frontier. We asked a couple of our readers what their thoughts on Spanglish were and they had some interesting insights about how they use the language. For Monica Mellado Baltazar, for instance using Spanglish is more than a language. She said: “It’s a way of communicating that unites us all, even if we are far away from our homes”. Monica uses Spanglish in multiple instances in her life: I use it when I’m speaking with my family, especially when I’m explaining something specific. I even use it at work.”
This embracing of language is mirrored by also a rise in the consumption of entertainment in Spanish. The survey findings also indicate that a significant number of respondents, across all generations, engage with Spanish language media and entertainment. On average, 30% of those surveyed reported watching at least some Spanish TV or streaming content on a weekly basis. Furthermore, 32% of respondents revealed that they frequently listen to music that is either entirely in Spanish or a mix of both languages. The rising popularity of Spanish-speaking artists like Bad Bunny, Peso Pluma, and Karol G is reflective of this cultural shift and the increasing mainstream acceptance of Spanish-language music, not only of people of Latino descent but Americans broadly.
The rise of Spanglish and the resurgence of Spanish language media and entertainment demonstrate a broader societal embrace of multiculturalism and the diverse linguistic landscape that characterizes the United States today. Gen Z Latinos, in particular, are leading the charge in embracing a bilingual identity and asserting their right to express themselves in the language that best represents their cultural heritage. As the demographics of the United States continue to evolve, it is essential to recognize and celebrate the linguistic diversity that enriches our society.