How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More on the languages we don't speak - but are presumed to

Photo by Florian SEROUSSI/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple of posts this week have explored the awkward moments when people are presumed to speak (or not speak) a certain language because of how they look, whether they be children of immigrants who don't speak their parents' native tongue, light-skinned Latinos mistaken for non-Latino whites, Filipinos mistaken for Latinos or any other linguistic mistaken-identity case.

The most recent post featured two readers' personal anecdotes and drew a couple of additional comments, including this one from Sylvia Cabus:

I’ve been mistaken for many nationalities, even Brazilian-Japanese, but fellow Filipinos don’t believe I’m from the Philippines.

The language problem is complicated as well because I speak Visayan, not Tagalog, and my Moroccan husband (who looks Latino) and I speak French at home.


When you're expected to speak a language you don't - or vice versa

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A short post yesterday highlighted a recent essay from a writer who is part Filipina and part German-Irish, but is often presumed to be Latina - and therefore, to speak Spanish. Only that she can't.

Spanish makes her nervous "because I can’t speak it, and I look like I should," author Sabina Murray wrote on The Nervous Breakdown website. "If you speak to me in Spanish, it feels like an invitation to something great that, unfortunately, I can’t accept."

As expected, the post resonated with readers who posted comments about their own experiences with the languages people expect them to speak - or not - based on how they look.

The "or not" is a biggie, too. Take it from yours truly, a native Spanish-speaking Latina who is all too often asked "How did you learn to speak Spanish so well?"


The cultural mashup dictionary: Tweecanos

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I've never met @xicano007, but a tweet from this East L.A. blogger and sports card collector brings us yet another entry for our evolving dictionary of cultural mashup terms: tweecanas and tweecanos.

Here's how it was used, in a tweet from yesterday mentioning an upcoming performance by Aztlan Underground:

RT @xicano007: Next Saturday at the BLVD in BOYLE HEIGHTS join @Aztlanug @laloalcaraz & some tweecanas/tweecanos for a night of rebeldia

It's perfect. Not sure if @xicano007 coined it, but who cares? Plus it sounds like a great show.

Multi-American's cultural mashup dictionary kicked off this spring. It's a collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of the evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.


The cultural mashup dictionary: Twittear and Feisbuk

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A recent post on the neologism Googlear has inspired two related entries to Multi-American's evolving cultural mashup dictionary: The social media mashup terms Twittear and Feisbuk.

First, the Wiktionary definition of twittear:


From the online microblogging website, Twitter.


twittear (first-person singular present twitteo, first-person singular preterite twitteé, past participle twitteado)

1. (Internet) to tweet

I've used and heard "twittear" among Spanish-English bilinguals for quite a while, but there's also this adaptation below, as posted in the comments under the "googlear" post by ar2ro:
more than likely i see "el twitter" being used more in time than "twittear."

ex: ya mandaste el tweet? (did you send the tweet?)
mire tu mesaje en el twitter. (i saw you message on twitter)
me gusta el twitter (i like twitter)

twittear somehow does not sound right. even googlear sounds a bit funky, but does roll off the tongue in spanish rather well.


Pik-sa, pisa or pizza?

Photo by Mr. Ducke/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Pizza (or pik-sa, or pisa) con jalapeños, May 2009

A reader responding to a recent collection of awkward language moments experienced by English learners, or people who were raised by them, has shared a good one: "pik-sa," better known as pizza.

Edith Padilla wrote:

I cannot seem to shake my habit of saying “pik-sa” instead of “pit-za.” I don’t make that mistake with the word mozzarella but pizza is a whole different story.

I've heard that one among Latinos, as well as "pisa," like in the leaning tower of Pisa or the Spanish verb "pisar," meaning to step or tread on. I visited my parents last weekend and shared a "pisa" with them for lunch. A Hawaiian pisa with barbecued chicken, which was quite tasty.

Have an ESL moment to share? Feel free to post anecdotes below.