Hispanic millennials are turning their backs on Spanglish, a slang that mixes English-language norms into Spanish and instead opting for proper American English. “The typical trend is that the first generation prefers to speak Spanish, the second generation is bilingual, and the third generation is generally monolingual,” Jody Agius Vallejo, an associate professor of sociology at USC who studies immigrant integration. But there is more going on than the natural trajectory of how immigrant groups assimilate to become Americans.
The fading of Spanglish could be a response to two separate trends we have seen over the last decade, terrorism and gender-empowerment. Spanglish flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, two factors fueled its rise. The first was the economic collapse of Latin America, resulting of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans moved to the United States as economic refugees. Then there were the “dirty wars” in Central and South America that saw hundreds of thousands of political refugees flee to the United States, giving rise to “sanctuary cities,” especially in California.
The result was the influx of Spanish-dominant immigrants, economic and political refugees alike many of whom struggled to learn English. As they became acculturated, they began to “forget” their Spanish vocabulary. “Lunch” replaced “almuerzo;” “troca,” a corruption of “truck,” replaced “camion.”
In the process they availed themselves to “Spanglish” a mix of English and Spanish that consists of calques and semantic extensions.
As a result of the slowdown in immigration from Latin America, the U.S. Hispanic population is now mostly U.S.-born, not immigrants. As the Pew Hispanic Center reported, “In 2013, U.S.-born Hispanics outnumbered foreign-born Hispanics by nearly two-to-one 35 million to 19 million and made up a growing share 65 percent of the nation’s Hispanic population.”
As Hispanics have now become English-dominant, the need for Spanglish may be disappearing. In fact, many Hispanic millennials have gone one step further, they don’t speak Spanish at all. In a surprising analysis, the Pew Hispanic Center reported that 71 percent of U.S. Hispanics believed that speaking Spanish was not necessary to their “Latino” identity.
“Fully 89 percent of U.S.-born Latinos spoke English proficiently in 2013, up from 72 percent in 1980. This gain is due in part to the growing share of U.S.-born Latinos who live in households where only English is spoken,” the Pew Hispanic Center reported.