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2009-09-13
 

Influence of United States technology on the Spanish Language

New York City Metro card in Spanish
New York City Metro card in Spanish


The British complain that Americans haven't spoken English for years, and of course, Americans even spell the language differently. Americans spell theatre as theater and colour as color. How horrible! Americans got rid of senseless transpositions and unpronounced extra letters; they also changed the "ise" verb endings to "ize". Not content with improving the English language, Americans are now trying to change Spanish by using nouns as verbs in TV commercials.

Hispanics now comprise approximately 15% of the population of the United States. The demographics of the United States have changed since its founding through acquisition of territories and immigration. In the past, the U.S. has been a great melting pot where eventually everyone has ended up speaking English and blended with the rest of the population. It has been different with Spanish speakers.

The major part of the southern United States was Spanish territory at one time. With the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, the U.S. took control of Florida which had been a province of the Captaincy General of Cuba under Spanish rule. The oldest city in the U.S. is St. Augustine, Florida which was established by the Spaniards in 1565. The U.S. acquired approximately 80,000 Spanish speakers from Mexico when it took over the territory that included California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. In 1917, the United States gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. About 31,000 Puerto Ricans moved to New York from 1946 to 1950. The 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story portrayed some of the friction between the Spanish and Anglo cultures of the time. From 1947 until 1964, the U.S. had the Bracero Program which allowed the importation of temporary contract laborers from Mexico to the United States. In 1959, a large Cuban exodus started when Fidel Castro won control of Cuba. From 1960 to 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans left Cuba to start a new life in the United States, mainly in Florida. Many Americans traveled to Mexico during the 1968 Summer Olympics and discovered Mexican food. Soon afterward, Mexican restaurants started appearing throughout the U.S. and many of the waiters and cooks were of Hispanic origin. Another wave of 125,000 Spanish speakers came in the early 1980s from Central America to the U.S. to escape natural disasters or to seek political asylum. The U.S. also has over 11 million illegal residents who, for the most part, are Spanish speakers from Mexico.

For two centuries, there has been a steady stream of Hispanic people who brought their culture, traditions, and the Spanish language to the U.S. The U.S. is home to more than 45 million Hispanics, making it the world's second-largest Spanish-speaking community after Mexico. Large enclaves of Spanish speakers and radio and national television channels that broadcast in Spanish such as Univision and Telemundo have made it possible for immigrants and their U.S.-born children to retain their language skills and have prevented the melting pot effect.

In a recent visit to New York, I noticed that the Metro cards for the New York Subway were written completely in Spanish. This is an adaptation to the reality that Hispanics comprise a large segment of our society and contribute substantially to the U.S. economy. Advertisements for cellular telephones that can send text messages have introduced new verbs on Spanish television such as "textear" or "mensajear" instead of using the traditional Spanish grammatical constructions "enviar mensajes de texto" or "enviar mensajes". Children who grow up listening to these neologisms will eventually adopt a new American version of Spanish. So how will these new verbs be conjugated?

Textear:
yo texteo, tú texteas, él textea, nosotros texteamos, vosotros texteáis, ellos textean. Estoy texteando.

Mensjear:
yo mensajeo, tú mensajeas, él mensajea, nosotros mensajeamos, vosotros mensajeáis, ellos mensajean. Estoy mensajeando.

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