Posted by: Jack Henry | June 7, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Hybrid Languages

Before you programmers get excited, this post about “hybrid languages” is not going to be about “a programming language that draws on elements from more than one programming paradigm” (Wikipedia). You’ll have to write that article yourself. If I did, you’d either laugh or pat my head in pity.

I want to discuss mixed languages (also known as interlanguages) that derive from two (or several) languages. There is some controversy about what constitutes a mixed language, but for the purposes of this conversation, I give you the example of Spanglish/Inglañol, a mix of Spanish and English that we hear a lot here in Southern California. Another example is Runglish/рунглиш, which was spoken between the English-speaking and Russian-speaking crew members aboard the International Space Station. And there are many others (see this article for a few more). Hybrid languages usually occur wherever there is a high level of bilingualism.

The idea for this topic came to me from a reader (thank you Susan M!), and then when I visited my dentist the other day, I had a fascinating first-had experience. My dentist, and the root canal specialist, and most of the office staff are Filipino-American. I was in the chair for quite a few hours and was mesmerized by the language I heard around me. What I heard was mostly Tagalog, but I heard many English words sprinkled in. I did some research and found that a name for this Filipino/English hybrid is Taglish. And I learned that the name Taglish is deceiving since many words in Tagalog derive from Spanish words, which were introduced when the Philippines was a Spanish colony. (Thanks Amber B. for the information!)

While researching, I found, not surprisingly, that these hybrid languages have served a vital purpose for people who are learning a new language and do not have a sufficient vocabulary. Hybrid languages have also been very beneficial when neither of the two languages alone allow a person to be understood or to satisfactorily share their thoughts and feelings. And one more important benefit of hybrid languages is that they allow speakers from two separate populations to speak in a new shared language to create a common identity or to form partnerships (like the American astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts at the International Space Station).

I hadn’t realized all the benefits of hybrid languages, and as an monolinguist, I’m envious of people who are able to speak more than one language, whether it’s hybrid or not.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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