The Power of the Spanglish


The English-speaking world takes for granted the immense influence it has over the rest of the world, Especially Latin-American countries like mine. I still remember one of my vacations in Colombia recently after I moved to the U.S.

I walked into a department store with my mother, and suddenly I saw “Sale” signs jumping out at me. For a second, I thought I was still in Orlando, the city where I lived at the time. Now,  the signs were not the news, but the fact that they were in English instead of Spanish, was something unusual for sure.

It’s been almost eight years, and since then, what started as a marketing strategy became a lifestyle in Colombia that will prevail indefinitely. It seems as if the independence that the founding fathers bled for against the Spanish army in the nineteenth century is completely forgotten, and now Colombia is an American slang and branding colony.

Spanish is rich and the countries that enjoy the privilege to have it as the mother language account for 477 million native speakers listed in the 2017 Cervantes Institute report. According to this data, Spanish is the second language spoken in the world, only surpassed by Mandarin Chinese.

Regardless of the importance of Spanish around the world, it comes second to English. Although it is undeniably a fundamental tool for education and professional advancement of any individual, the Anglo culture has become an obsession in developing countries.

If only the focus was toward learning the language instead of merely buying things and services in that language to feel superior to their country folks. The “wannabe gringos” are the bread and butter of the advertising agencies with narrow creativity which need to sell their client’s overpriced products.

However, there is another explanation for the English influence in my home country. The transformation of its population caused by the emigration of millions of Colombians–yours truly included–has generated an assimilation of products and brands by the relatives who frequently visit their loved ones in the U.S.

Although I understand this, and as a matter of fact my own family is a walking billboard of American brands, I dislike very much the use of English to refer to aspects of our folklore, gastronomy, and everyday activities advertised on print and social media.

The current advertising industry in Colombia has lost its creativity and the magic they used to have compared to the rest of the world. They used to shine and made our products uniquely distinctive in Spanish, such as Juan Valdez and his sweet mule Conchita, to represent the 100% Café de Colombia, our most beloved product.

Now, I have a confession to make. Even though I love writing in my native language I enjoy writing in English. I have to admit that it is the most efficient language word-count wise, which facilitates the transmission of complete ideas. Perhaps, that is the reason for its success around the world.

To give you an example, I will describe the same establishment in both, Spanish and English:

Spanish: Sala de belleza, manicure, pedicure y masajes.

English: Spa.

Now you see what I mean?

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119


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