Embracing Spanish Language Diversity
Kim Potowski is my new favorite author…although, I haven’t read her book. I know she will be once I do read it. My favorite authors have always been those who put my feelings into words. Last Thursday at the Illinois Bilingual Conference Potowski discussed her theory of linguistic imperialism. I really connected with this idea for many reasons.
First of all, defining that there is a U.S. Spanish or estadounidismo was a great ah ha! for me. I first became aware of the vastness of vocabulary usage in Spanish when I was a studying in Chile on a foreign exchange program. I was so impressed with Chileans' sense of identity; it was so strong that I was given a book of chilenismos to read and learn so that I could engage in the culture. However, I am still learning to distinguish between chilenismos and the foul language my Chilean brothers use, and it has really opened my eyes to recognizing different varieties of Spanish. Upon my return to the states, I was continually corrected by my Spanish professors and I was continually justifying my use of this word or that, but was told I was wrong. My professors were Colombian, Russian, and Texan, and as Potowski pointed out, the U.S. Spanish-speaking population is that diverse. This leads to the conclusion that if we don’t embrace each other’s languages we will end up like the Real Academia Española, and not embrace amazingly descriptive words like fome (a chilenismo for lame or boring).
Another reason I connected with Potowski’s ideas about linguistic imperialism is because one of the first questions people always ask me about Books del Sur is: where are they imported from? When I tell them Chile, I am faced with the immediate response, “Oh, I wish it was Mexico because my students are from Mexico.”
Now instead of apologizing, I can emphasize how amazing the characters and stories are and how vital it is for our students to understand the rich diversity of Spanish language.