To Speak or Not To Speak

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September 19, 2012 by kguzman707

“If we do speak Spanish, we are criticized for it…yet if we don’t speak Spanish, we are accused of not being genuine”

   It does annoy me when people of Latino background do not speak Spanish. Seriously… they are born into a Latino family and environment, and they can’t manage the language. It’s even worse when someone boasts of being Latino and doesn’t even have a grasp of the language. Something else that is annoying is how a child grows up surrounded by his Latino family and hearing their accents and vernacular, and at the end they speak chopped Spanish. That is, their Spanish is Americanized and doesn’t include the specific dialect or accent of their family’s Latino background. And they sound ashamed to speak Spanish.

   However, the fact of the matter is that language is not the only thing that matters. When people think of Latinos the language they associate is Spanish. Yes, language is an important aspect of identity. It can inhibit or strengthen identity. Yet, it is not the only part that constitutes identity, much less the only aspect that defines being Latino. From one perspective, “Latino” is intended to refer to people of Latin American ancestry, including Brazilians. Brazilians don’t commonly speak Spanish. Does that mean they aren’t Latinos? The ability to speak Spanish may influence one’s Latino identity, but it does not define it. The Hispanic heritage and the dear embracing of the culture plays just an important role as speaking the language. Being Latino encompasses our values and beliefs, our sense of community, our foods, our music, our traditions, our variety, our colors, our dances, and many other traits that make Latinos unique. Even if you can’t really speak the language fluently, if you come from a Latino family or background, being Latino is literally already in your blood. So why even bother with the debate. Now, someone’s ability to speak Spanish may influence his or her Latino identity. It might make them feel more Latino. It might make them more acceptable to the public eye. It might make communication among the larger Latino community and relatives who don’t speak English easier. However, that’s still no just or sole basis to define someone as Latino.


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