As a young – adult, Cuban – American, New Yorker, I speak many different languages/dialects everyday. I mostly speak English outside of my home. Within my household we speak a mixture of Spanish, English and Spanglish. When having interactions in English, I am able to switch between formal and informal language. For example, when speaking to a person of higher authority, I use a more prestige language. Whereas, when I am speaking to people I am more comfortable around, such as, friends and some family, I use a more causal and loose conversational speaking. But for the most part people’s perception of my language is always proper.
I was raised bilingually because my grandparents only speak Spanish and the only way I could communicate with them was to learn Spanish. I learned the traditional Spanish but I also picked up on the “Cuban slang” words as well. Learning Spanish at such a young age I was able to become more confident the older I got when speaking it. When speaking to other Spanish speakers in my dialect, not all of them always understand the words that are specific to my family’s Spanish. In my house we more slang words and more “relaxed” Spanish whereas if I am speaking to my grandmother’s friends, for example, I speak very proper Spanish.
As a woman who appears as a Caucasian woman, I have encountered times where people are taken back by the fact I speak Spanish. They automatically judge that I don’t speak Spanish because I don’t meet the stereotypical qualifications of a Spanish woman. For instance, when I’m with friend who carries the traits of a stereotypical Spanish woman and a Spanish speaker is in need of assistance, they’re more inclined to ask her before asking me. Being so used to speaking Spanish, I get taken back when others don’t see me as Hispanic just based off my looks.
We are so conditioned to look at life through a stereotyped lens that we use their appearance and the way people speak to affect our perception. People will usually view others as lower class if they speak with profanity and/or slang, when in all reality it could just be, what they see as, a dialect of their language. People like to stay with what they’re comfortable with and they tend to judge people who are not of their norm. Being a multi-language speaker, I feel that people should be more open-minded with language. Language is used however people like and want to express themselves.
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