How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The cultural mashup dictionary: Googlear

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Thank you, News Taco, for calling to mind a term that merits a place in the evolving cultural mashup dictionary: Googlear.

Yesterday the website published a brief post on a report from ClickZ, which provides marketing news, on the Google search habits of Latinos. I'd seen the report earlier and it's interesting in itself: Among other things, 93 percent of Latinos use Google for searches, 80 percent of Spanish keyword searches come from the search engine's English interface (which likely means that bilingual Latinos are searching the English interface), and Latinos are big smartphone users, with a greater tendency to use cell phones in their searches than the general market.

But back to the term "googlear," which the post featured prominently in a graphic. I say this all the time without thinking about it. It's not just any neologism but a double one, a new term coined from another new term. Here is the sort-of official definition of googlear from Wikipedia:

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Five awkward language moments

Photo by Visentico/Sento/Flickr (Creative Commons)


In a post earlier this week, I described what can best be called being haunted by the ESL ghost. I learned English in kindergarten and have no discernible accent, no trace of my native Spanish in my otherwise very American-sounding speech.

But growing up in a family of immigrant English learners, I picked up many of the mispronunciations that are common to those who learn English as a second language, and some of these dog me to this day.

In the post I shared a couple of awkward language moments, like times I've mispronounced colander as "co-LAN-der" and my tendency to call a skiing balaclava a "ba-CLA-va," which sounds a bit like one of my favorite pastries.

Since then, readers have responded by sharing some of their own ESL moments. Here are a few, edited slightly for typos:

Rogelio Gómez Hernández wrote:

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Introducing the cultural mashup dictionary: Our first term, 1.5 generation

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Just like Southern California’s culture is shaped by immigrants and their descendants, so is its language. There is an evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined here and elsewhere in the U.S. where immigrants have influenced the English language, and it has influenced them.

And it’s worth compiling into its own dictionary of sorts. Today I’m introducing the first entry, a term I use often: 1.5 generation.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

The term 1.5 generation or 1.5G refers to people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens. They earn the label the "1.5 generation" because they bring with them characteristics from their home country but continue their assimilation and socialization in the new country. Their identity is thus a combination of new and old culture and tradition.

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What is your most awkward language moment?

It's been well documented by now that growing up bilingual can be good for you. But getting there? Survivors of an English-learner upbringing can attest that it's not always an easy road, and that the bumps along it - some amusing, some awkward - continue well into adulthood.

I began learning English in kindergarten, learning it at the same time my immigrant parents did. Because I was so young, I quickly mastered the American accent, as did my immigrant peers. But one of the pitfalls of growing up in a household where everyone is learning English is that along the way, you pick up many of the mispronunciations common to English learners.

These mispronunciations vary depending on who is learning the language. For Spanish and Tagalog speakers, for example, the double "ee" of "sheep" is often pronounced like the "i" in "ship," and so forth. I got over the obvious mistakes fairly quickly.

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Among 'psycho-emotional' effects of immigration on kids: Communication breakdown

Photo by TruShu/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The immigrant advocacy blog Project Economic Refugee has featured a much-tweeted Q&A with Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, the author of a new book titled Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families.

The interview covers the "psycho-emotional impacts of immigration" on the children in immigrant families, touching on issues that range from family separation after immigration raids to spirituality. One issue that's not so widely discussed stood out, however, and that's family communication.

Frazier discusses the odd role reversal that takes place when children become interpreters for adult family members, and the incomplete communication between parents and children that begins to occur as children learn English, while the native language of the parents is still spoken at home. The piece features this excerpt from the book:

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