Interfacing Through Cyber-Spanglish


If you’re among the 28 million Latinos in the U.S. and an aficionado of cyberculture, you might be tempted to clickear el mouse and surfear the Net or e-mailear a document to an amigo.

Speak cyber-Spanglish?

The advent of techno-language has resulted in the creation of a host of new words in the English-Spanish hybrid language called Spanglish, spoken by tens of thousands of Americans and immigrants among the growing Latino population, linguistic experts say.

The speed of change in the high-tech world often leaves language behind. As a result, speakers of Spanish often adopt English techno-terminology, slightly modified to sound and look Spanish--even when there are acceptable Spanish words to say the same thing.

For example: beepear--to beep. In Spanish, it is localizar electronicamente--to locate electronically.

Or e-mailear--to e-mail. In Spanish it is enviar por correo electronico--to send by electronic mail.


Language experts say it is no surprise that Spanglish, commonly used in border and immigrant communities from California to Florida, has entered cyberspace.

“It’s not linguistic incompetence, like many people think it is,” said Kati Pletsch de Garcia, a linguistics professor at Texas A & M International University. “Many people switch to fit in better with the group.”

MCI Communications Corp. has created an English and Spanish tecnoguia, a guide that defines and translates nearly 1,000 terms related to computers and communications technology and outlines techno do’s and don’ts.

“The pace of technology development today is pushing the limits of language to translate the names of new services quickly enough in all the countries that are rushing to adopt them,” the guide said.

The company calls the guide a “first-of-its-kind” glossary to address translation challenges.

“Technology is only great if you can understand it and use it,” MCI spokesman Manuel Wernicky said. “We designed the tecnoguia so we could be a bridge and help people get rid of the fear of technology.”

Fifteen percent of Latino households in the U.S. have computers, compared with 22% for the remainder of U.S. homes, the company said. Of the 60 million people worldwide who regularly use the Internet, 4 million are Latino.

MCI says modem, Internet, fax, Web, beeper, CD-ROM, e-mail, diskette, mouse and word-processing all are acceptable English high-tech words for Spanish speakers.

But the company frowns on the Spanglish verb forms that have become so common--beepear, clickear, e-mailear, surfear--which have perfectly good Spanish versions.

Many of the cyberterms defined in the guide would be instantly recognizable to users of either language.

For example, bitmap, defined as the representation of a video image stored in a computer memory as a set of bits, translates as mapa de bits in Spanish. Browser, a software program for exploring the World Wide Web, is explorador in Spanish.

While hybrids are a natural occurrence when two languages come into close contact, they are discouraged by language purists, Pletsch de Garcia said.

“Many times . . . there is definitely a feeling that you have to speak the standard,” she said. “But most people can’t define the correct way.”

Some words, of course, need no translation or interpretation. The tecnoguia says spam--the cyberspace word for Internet junk mail--is spam in either language.