BBC 2024-02-15 12:01:46

Israeli special forces enter Nasser hospital in Khan Younis

Earlier, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said intensive patients at Nasser hospital were in “grave danger” after Israeli forces entered the medical complex.

But the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insists that a “key objective” of its operation is to ensure that the hospital “continues its important function of treating Gazan patients”.

In a statement, the IDF says this was communicated with hospital staff over the last few days – and it “emphasised that there is no obligation for patients or staff to evacuate the hospital”.

One dead and 21 injured in Super Bowl parade shooting

One person has died and 21 people were wounded in a shooting in Missouri at the end of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade.

Officials said they treated eight victims who were in immediately life-threatening condition and seven others who had suffered injuries that could prove life-threatening.

Nine children were among the wounded – all are expected to recover.

Police said they have arrested three suspects in connection to the shooting.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said a total of 22 people were struck by gunfire – one of whom is dead – and three individuals were arrested.

More than 800 police officers were already on the scene to monitor the parade. Ms Graves said they responded immediately after the gunshots broke out and detectives who were on the scene quickly opened an investigation. The fire brigade also sprang to action, administering aid to the injured.

A local radio station said one of its DJs, Lisa Lopez, was killed in the shooting.

The surviving victims were transported to three local hospitals, officials said, with the immediately life-threatening cases taken to hospital within 10 minutes of the shooting.

Nine children aged six to 15 with gunshot wounds are being treated at Children’s Mercy Hospital, chief nursing officer Stephanie Meyer said.

“The one word I would just use to describe what we saw and how they felt when they came to us was fear,” Ms Meyer added.

Local hospitals said they were also treating people who were not shot, but who had suffered other injuries in the sudden stampede that followed the shooting.

City officials did not release the names of any of the victims. They also did not share any information about the suspects who were arrested, including what might have led to the shooting. Police Chief Graves said the motive for the shooting was not yet clear.

A law enforcement source told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that the shooting appeared to be the result of an argument that turned violent. The source said it was not terrorism-related.

The shots were fired west of Union Station, the train station in downtown Kansas City, which was where the parade ended at about 14:00 local time (20:00 GMT). Thousands of fans had gathered there to watch the festivities.

Local reports said Kansas City Chiefs players were still on a stage there when the first shots rang out.

The gunfire caused the watching crowd, including the city’s mayor and his family members, to run for cover.

Police said they were investigating a motive and gathering physical as well as digital evidence.

A 46-year-old man, Paul Contreras, told local television station, KETV, that he was one of the fans who helped “tackle” the man, and saw him drop a gun when he was knocked down.

“The whole time, he’s fighting to get up and run away,” Mr Contreras said, adding police arrived within moments. “We’re fighting each other, you know. We’re fighting to keep him down and he’s fighting to get up.”

He said his 23-year-old daughter, Alyssa, managed to capture the encounter on her phone.

Chief Graves said she was aware of a video purporting to show fans subduing a person, and that investigators were reviewing the footage to determine if the individual was one of the people taken into police custody.

A city ‘heartbroken’

Gunfire erupted as the city celebrated the victory of the Kansas City Chiefs in America’s biggest sporting event. But this lesser-known American city was robbed of its exhilarating and unifying moment.

Kansas City’s Mayor, Quinton Lucas, said he was inside Union Station when he and others heard the sound of gunfire. He and members of his family started running.

“We went out today like everyone in Kansas City looking to have a celebration,” Mr Lucas said at Wednesday’s news conference.

“I was there with my wife, I was there with my mother. I never would’ve thought that we, along with Chiefs players, along with fans, hundreds of thousands of people, would be forced to run for our safety today.”

In a statement, the Kansas City Chiefs organisation said it was “truly saddened” by Wednesday’s violence. It added that its players, coaches and staff – as well as their families – were accounted for and safe.

Travis Kelce, the star tight end of the team whose relationship with Taylor Swift became a cultural phenomenon, wrote on social media that he was “heartbroken over the tragedy that took place today”.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a wide receiver for the Chiefs, also took to social media after the tragedy. He said he wanted to get in touch with the young victims of the shooting.

“I want to make sure they’re doing OK,” Mr Valdes-Scantling said. “But would love to help them out any way I can and get them some stuff from the team to help with the recovery.”

The mayor emphasised that the city had security measures in place, and it should make the public think deeply about a path forward. Despite hundreds of law enforcement present, he said, this incident still occurred because of the presence of bad actors with guns.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden also reflected on the issue of gun violence in the country.

“Today’s events should move us, shock us, shame us into action,” he said, as he called for gun reform and a ban on assault rifles in the US.

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Ukraine battles frostbite and shell shortage in ruined town

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the US failure to approve continued military assistance to Ukraine is already having an impact on the battlefield, although he expects Congress will eventually approve an aid package. Republicans in the lower House of Representatives are holding up a $95bn (£75bn) foreign aid package for Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Russia has continued attacks on Ukrainian cities. After months of heavy fighting, Russian forces appear close to surrounding the ruins of Avdiivka, where frostbite is taking its toll on Ukrainian troops.

The man’s fist looked unrecognisable. Like a split and bruised peach.

“Or like a rock,” said the Ukrainian army surgeon, tapping the frozen fingers.

It was the second case of frostbite he’d treated that morning, standing beside a makeshift operating table, hidden inside an anonymous-looking cottage near the besieged ruins of the Ukrainian front-line town of Avdiivka.

“He’ll probably lose both hands,” said the surgeon with a frown.

It’s very hard out there – we do not have enough of the weapons we need

As Russia’s invasion edges towards the end of its second year, the mood among Ukraine’s defenders is darkening, as exhaustion, frustration at a shortage of weapons, and the knowledge that there will be no quick military victory, all take their toll.

“My best friend was killed this morning,” a bearded soldier shouted, along with a hail of swear words and a blast of cold air, as he barged through the back door into the 47th Brigade’s well-hidden field hospital.

Moments later, two more wounded men were helped in through another entrance. Vadym, 48, had been hit by shrapnel in his upper arm that morning as his unit was storming a Russian position in Avdiivka.

“It’s very hard out there,” he said, as the surgeon, a senior lieutenant named Vitalii, came over to look at the wound and two army medics cut away Vadym’s filthy uniform.

“We do not have enough of the weapons we need.”

“It’s difficult. The enemy has a lot of everything, of every type of equipment, while we have almost nothing,” said the other wounded man, 24-year-old Andrii, before wincing in pain. A Russian artillery shell had hit his trench overnight and a piece of shrapnel had sliced through his ankle.

The surgeon, Vitalii, worked at a children’s hospital before the war. He spoke wearily of his experience amputating limbs last year during Ukraine’s failed counter-offensive across Russian minefields, and of the shrapnel wounds that were now filling his days and nights.

“I urge the West to be more decisive in assisting Ukraine, because (if they don’t) sooner or later their soldiers will (also) have to fight against this evil that has invaded our country,” he said.

Further north, two huge Ukrainian tanks roared along a mud-and-snow-smeared country road, then swung away through another heavily destroyed village and on towards the nearest Russian lines, perhaps 2km away.

After many months of fighting, the Kremlin’s forces appear close to surrounding the ruins of Avdiivka, with some Ukrainian soldiers privately admitting the town, scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war so far, could fall at any moment.

“We’re upset,” said a Ukrainian officer, Oleksii, from Ukraine’s 110th Mechanised Brigade, standing beside a huge mobile artillery piece as the sound of Russian guns boomed in the distance.

The Czech-supplied artillery can hold and fire up to 36 shells at one time, and last year it was routinely shooting 80 shells a day at Russian positions around Avdiivka. But not today.

“Currently we have two shells, but we have no (explosive) charges for them… so we can’t fire them. As of now, we have run out of shells,” said Oleksii. He suggested that the shortages were widespread and having a dramatic impact on the fighting in Avdiivka.

“We feel a very strong responsibility for our guys fighting right now in the town, armed only with assault rifles.” He compared the situation to early in 2022, when ammunition was also in short supply and he’d been wounded.

“I’m worried that there will now be the same large number of casualties that I saw in hospital then,” said Oleksii.

Back in the field hospital, the two wounded men were now bandaged. The older man, Vadym, stood up, as if to leave, and argued that he was fit enough to return to his comrades in the trenches, but the doctor insisted he needed to wait at least a week.

Our fighters are determined to stand firm, but the conditions are extreme

The surgeon, Vitalii, scoffed at the idea that some Ukrainian soldiers might be deliberately getting frostbite wounds in order to avoid the hellish conditions on the front lines.

“That’s absurd. You’d have to be a complete idiot. We don’t have deserters like that, and I’ve never encountered a situation like that. On the contrary, our fighters are determined to stand firm,” he said.

“But the conditions are extreme, and they have to sit in trenches without a stove in -15 or -20C, because any heat will be visible (to Russians) through thermal imaging devices.”

The childhood WW2 trauma that inspired Yoko Ono

As a major retrospective of the conceptual artist’s work opens, her son Sean Ono Lennon talks about her art – and her collaborations with his father, John Lennon.

In 1945, Yoko Ono’s parents sent her and her younger sibling to the Japanese countryside to escape the attacks on major cities in Japan during World War Two. The United States had firebombed Tokyo, Ono’s hometown at the time, killing up to 100,000 people. The now 90-year-old artist was then 12 and from an affluent family, but food shortages during the war meant that Ono, her brother, Keisuke and sister, Setsuko, often went hungry.

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According to Ono’s son, 48-year-old American-British musician and producer Sean Ono Lennon, his mother, who now lives in New York, would play “imaginary meal games” with her siblings where they would pretend they were eating food. “You could say that the conceptual origins of her work started there in World War Two – being hungry and realising the power of imagination,” says Ono Lennon, who runs her day-to-day affairs now that the artist has retired.”You could even say it led directly to the song Imagine, which became this world-famous anthem,” he tells BBC Culture. The 1971 song Imagine was co-written by Ono and her husband, John Lennon, though at the time of the song’s release, only Lennon was credited. 

Sean Ono Lennon photographed with his mother Yoko Ono in 1983 (Credit: Getty Images)

While many identify Ono simply as the wife of John Lennon, before the couple met in 1966, Ono, who moved to New York with her family in the early 1950s, had been an influential multimedia artist and musician in her own right. In New York, she had worked with artists such as the US composer John Cage and the musician and performance artist La Monte Young.

She had also been invited to be a part of Fluxus, an international avant-garde art collective popular in the 1960s and 1970s for their experimental performances, though Ono turned them down. “In my mother’s case, she never necessarily felt that Fluxus represented her,” says Ono Lennon, explaining that she preferred to work alone. “Even when my father, John Lennon, was looking for a new writing partner [after The Beatles broke up in 1970] because he’d always had Paul McCartney to write songs with, my mom said she didn’t want to at first.”  

Starving in World War Two and having to imagine meals for her crying little brother [caused] her to become a conceptual artist – Sean Ono Lennon

Earlier in her career, Ono was particularly known for her “scores” or “instruction pieces”, which initially began as an invitation for viewers to interact with her paintings but became artworks in themselves, instructing viewers to engage in or envision engaging in various activities. Ono would ask people to perform actions such as “bondage any part of your body” or “light a match and watch til it goes out”, both of which can be found in her 1964 book Grapefruit, where she famously collated a collection of these short instructions.

Ono’s Sky TV 1966/2014 – fleeing war as a child, she found comfort in the presence of the sky (Credit: Courtesy the artist/ Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden/ Cathy Carver)

This creativity has seen her work shown at some of the top museums in the world, including a 2015 retrospective at the MoMA, titled Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, and now a major exhibition at London’s Tate Modern, Yoko Ono: Music Of The Mind

The Tate show follows Ono’s art from the mid-1950s to the present day. As curator Juliet Bingham puts it in the exhibition catalogue: “We are invited to step on a painting, water a canvas, perform inside a bag, greet visitors by shaking hands anonymously, put our shadows together, hammer a nail or play a game of chess, celebrate our mothers, share our hopes, our dreams and our wishes, and most importantly to imagine.”

Finding comfort

As Ono Lennon says, his mother’s artwork can be seen as a way of processing her experiences of suffering, and as a means of probing how we can achieve world peace. In projects like Grapefruit, viewers are invited to view the world through Ono’s eyes. “There are people who sit and go through Grapefruit, and they try to do each instruction,” Sean says. “So if it’s to ‘make a painting to see the sky through’, which is essentially a hole in the canvas that you look at the sky, they’ll make that because the idea is breaking the barrier between the artist and audience.” Bingham also notes that “as a child fleeing the bombing of Tokyo during the Second World War, Ono found comfort in the constant presence of the sky”. 

Yoko Ono with Glass Hammer, from a 1967 exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery (Credit: Clay Perry)

But for Ono, art has never been about a singular mode of expression, which is why her work can be found in multiple forms. “What’s unique about my mother’s work is that she didn’t think about art as a specific medium,” Sean says. “She felt that art and creativity were conceptual, and so it almost didn’t matter which medium they were manifested in.” In 1955, she performed Lighting Piece for her friends and family before publicly performing it in 1961, then incorporated it as part of a musical performance in Japan in 1962. She eventually included the instructions in Grapefruit, and then recorded a silent film of the action in 1966, titled No.1 (Match). 

Some of Ono’s most notable artworks are also performances. In 1964, at Yamaichi Concert Hall in Kyoto, she performed Cut Piece, where she placed scissors in front of her and invited viewers to cut off a piece of her clothes. “Cut Piece has increasingly been understood as a pivotal early work of feminist art history, although it is open to multiple readings, including those posed by Ono herself,” writes Bingham. “During her early performances in Kyoto and Tokyo in 1964 and at DIAS in London in 1966, Ono’s performance of the work was accompanied by a large handwritten sign that read, ‘My body is the Scar of My Mind’, and Ono’s own quote that, “It was a form of giving, giving and taking”. 

Ono later performed Cut Piece in Paris in 2003 at the age of 70, 39 years after the initial performance, which her son attended. “Watching it is like watching one of the most terrifying and engaging performances I’ve ever seen,” he says. “There’s the danger of the scissors and the vulnerability of the woman sitting there.”

Secret Piece was part of Grapefruit, 1964, an interactive artwork on display at the Tate’s Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind retrospective (Credit: Courtesy the artist)

Sean also notes the various different ways cutters chose to approach Ono. “One person cut a very small piece of the bottom of her dress shyly and ran away, and then another person confidently and arrogantly cut a circle around her breast ” he explains. “It’s amazing how much you see of the inner world of the audience members just from this single act of cutting one piece of clothing off.”  

Many might assume that, as a musician, Sean must have been influenced by his world-famous father, but he mentions that Ono is actually the one to have inspired his music from a young age, as his father died when he was five. Lennon was murdered outside of his family home in New York City in 1980. “I learned how to record from my mother, I saw her record and then I wound up making a record with her when I was 19 called Rising,” he says. “She was my musical mentor, whereas my dad, I had to learn his music from records, which was instructive in its own way, but it certainly wasn’t as influential as my mother being there and making music with her.” In honour of his mother’s birthday on 18 February, and in a homage to her art, he has created a virtual “wish tree” where users can hang their hopes and dreams and plant a real-life tree with the reforestation charity One Tree Planted.

My point is that [Imagine] can only have been made by those two people at that point in their lives – Sean Ono Lennon

Ono also eventually collaborated with Lennon both musically (as we know) and artistically. The pair often used both of their platforms to advocate for world peace, much in the way Ono approached her art prior to this. In 1969, the pair sent acorns to world leaders, and asked them to plant them in support of world peace for a performance titled Acorn Peace. The pair also held two widely publicised Bed-Ins where they stayed in bed in a hotel suite for a week (the first time in Amsterdam in March 1969 and then in May 1969 in Montreal) as a form of peaceful protest againstthe Vietnam War, which garnered worldwide attention. A film titled Bed Peace (1969) documented the second of the Bed-In events, where they spoke with the press. 

Ono collaborated with Lennon on various works and happenings, including the “bed-in for peace” in 1969 (Credit: Getty Images)

Ono Lennon notes that, while people like to consider how his father might have influenced Ono, “it’s almost more clear the influence that she had on my dad”.He believes Imagine would never have been written without their relationship. “My point is that it can only have been made by those two people at that point in their lives,” he says. He says that the song’s history begins with his mother “starving in World War Two, and having to imagine meals for her crying little brother, causing her to become a conceptual artist,” which in turn influenced Lennon “to start writing a song that came from this idea of imagine this and imagine that,” he says. “But like any great piece of art, it goes beyond the people that made it when it becomes part of the world.”

Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind is at Tate Modern, London, until 1 September.

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Eslei! The new generation reinventing Spanglish

When Spanish meets English, new dialects emerge – giving us real-time insight into language evolution, linguists say.

“Vamos de punches punches punches”, Yamilet Muñoz texted her friends in Austin, Texas. It means “let’s go and party”, but it’s not a phrase you’ll find in any dictionary. It’s a remix of Spanish and English words seasoned with a in-joke about punching the air as you dance, and it’s just one example of the countless linguistic innovations happening every day as these two major American languages meet.

“Our language has always been a very big indicator of our cultural pride,” says Muñoz, whose parents migrated from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas, in the 1990s. Around 66% of the city’s population identify as Hispanic or Latino/Latina (Latinx is also used to refer to Latinos and Hispanics in a gender-neutral way). For Muñoz and her friends there is pride in speaking Spanish, but also in mixing the languages into the hybrid known as Spanglish: “It’s like a rite of passage – we are making what we heard growing up into our own thing. It’s very natural to use.”

It is also, she says, about “integrating the two cultures”, as she seamlessly moves between Spanish and English in her private life as well as her job as an outreach associate for the Catholic Diocese of Austin.

The evolution of Spanglish has been documented for decades, with each generation adding its unique twist. Now a growing body of research, as well as the experiences of bilingual speakers like Muñoz, shows just how deeply English and Spanish are influencing each other in the United States – resulting in hybrid dialects like Spanglish, but also, transforming the underlying languages.

“The two languages are shaping one another in both directions,” says Phillip Carter, a professor of linguistics and English at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute. “English very clearly affects the way people speak Spanish here, but Spanish also affects the way that people speak English. The most obvious [result] is the phenomenon sometimes called Spanglish, where people use both languages within an utterance, or both languages within a conversation,” he adds.

Match the Spanish accent to the country

In fact, according to Pew Research, Spanglish is widespread, with 63% of people who identify as US Latino speaking it at least sometimes. But Carter has also found another effect: Spanish is changing English.

For the past decade, Carter and his colleagues have studied language change in Miami, a city where some 72% identify as Latino or Hispanic and which is strongly shaped by historical migration from Cuba. Their research documents the emergence of a distinctMiami English” dialect as a result of that Spanish-language heritage.

One 2023 research paper by Carter and Kristen D’Alessandro Merii, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University at Buffalo, focuses on the role of so-called calques in Miami English, meaning, English phrases that are translated word-for-word from Spanish. This includes Miami English phrases such as “get down from the car” instead of “get out of the car” (derived from the Spanish “bajarse del carro“) or “make a party” instead of “throw a party” (derived from the Spanish “hacer una fiesta”). 

The Spanish influence has also shown up in ways people may not immediately notice, such as sounds like the “oo” in “boot” being pronounced in a more Spanish-style way in Miami, more like the Spanish “u” vowel, according to separate research by Carter, Lydda López Valdez at the University of Miami and Nandi Sims at Ohio State University.

“This is the work of language change, this is the work of dialect formation, this is how it happens. It happens in things that are really noticeable, like [the phrase] ‘get down from the car’, but it also happens in really subtle ways,” he says.

People wave Cuban flags in the streets of Little Havana in Miami (Credit: Getty Images)

‘Correr para presidente’

Meghann Peace, an associate professor of Spanish at St Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, defines Spanglish as “a dialect of Spanish that is influenced by English”. Peace teaches a Spanglish class during which her students also research the dialect. Broadly speaking, Spanglish includes not only mixing the languages but also wider borrowings and influences, she says. She gives examples of commonly used Spanish-English words in San Antonio, such as “lonche” for lunch (instead of the standard Spanish “almuerzo”) and “troca” for truck (instead of “camioneta”).

Peace also says certain word-for-word translations from English are commonly used in Texan Spanish, such as “correr para presidente” for “run for president” (instead of the standard Spanish “presentarse como candidato a la presidencia”, which would translate word for word into something like “presenting yourself as a candidate for the presidency”).

Many of the students in her Spanglish class are themselves bilingual and use Spanglish in their daily lives, Peace says, and yet there is a common view among them that “Spanglish is fun, it’s cool – and it’s incorrect”. But, she adds, “it’s not incorrect at all”. Instead, Peace describes it as simply the result of contact between English and Spanish.

It’s not just Spanish and English shaping each other, however. Different kinds of Spanish – from different parts of Latin America and Spain, and different generations – are also meeting in the US and creating something new.

Horse riders carry American and Mexican flags during the Annual Houston Fiestas Patrias Parade in Houston (Credit: Getty Images)

‘Nombre, pana!’: Peru meets Mexico in Texas

Eloy Cruz, a 22-year-old former student of Peace’s, describes Spanish as his first language and one he naturally prefers, though he is also fully comfortable in English. He is of Mexican descent and grew up in the city of Laredo by the US-Mexican border, where more than 95% of the population identify as Hispanic or Latino, and more than 88% speak a language other than English at home. His parents were also born in the US in Laredo, Texas, but lived in Mexico for the majority of their formative years. The family spoke only Spanish at home.

In his work at a public school in Texas, supporting young people as they go to university, Cruz effortlessly shifts between his languages. Many of the students’ parents, for example, come from different parts of Latin America, and many only speak Spanish. On the other hand, there are those who may want to learn more English, and then he responds accordingly: “If they start throwing in more English, I’ll also throw in more English, to help them out. I need to get a feeling for what they’re like, and then I’ll throw in more Spanish or English.”

He also enjoys trading words from different Spanish dialects: he learned “pana”, a Peruvian word for friend, from Peruvian students at his university. He in turn taught them the Mexican expression “nombre”, a contraction of “no, hombre!”, meaning something like, “no way, man!” Once, he found himself exclaiming: “Nombre, pana!” – “No way, man!”, with a Mexican-Peruvian twist.

One of his current favourite words is “eslei”, Spanglish for “slay” – as in, to do something extremely well.

New York City’s Mexican-American community celebrates Mexico’s Independence at the annual Mexico Day Parade (Credit: Getty Images)

The “vale” effect

Why do bilingual speakers mix languages in this way? One might think it is simply an unconscious, accidental process, but research suggests it is more intentional than that.

Peace has analysed how Mexican Americans subtly change their Spanish when studying abroad in Spain. Research by her and others has shown that during such extended stays in Spain, Mexican Americans and other US Spanish speakers tend to pick up certain aspects of European Spanish, but not others. For example, they often adopt one particular European Spanish word with special enthusiasm, according to the research: “vale”, meaning, “right”, or “ok”.

“They love saying vale,” Peace says, even though equivalent words exist in their own US Spanish, such as “bueno”.

What made the students adopt this word, but not others? The answer has to do with finely calibrated judgments around identity, research by Peace and others suggests. Sprinkling in “vale” allowed the speakers to add some global flavour to their speech, while still holding on to their own identity, Peace says: “It’s seen as cosmopolitan, and shows that you’re capable of adapting. It’s a way of saying, ‘I am an international person’,” she says.

Spanglish is helping conversations happen – Yamilet Muñoz

Muñoz and Cruz also highlight another important reason for mixing and shifting between Spanish and English: making sure everyone can understand each other and feels welcome.

“The way we use Spanglish is fluid,” says Muñoz. “I could be speaking Spanish, and they’d be speaking English back to me, and that’s ok. With those who also speak that way, there’s no shame.” For her, it also reflects the linguistic diversity that shaped her upbringing in San Antonio. “Growing up, there were so many different types of Spanish,” she says. That mix included people newly arriving from different Mexican regions or other Latin American countries, as well as those born in the US, like herself. For her, Spanglish is a way of connecting everyone in that community: “It’s what’s helping conversations happen.”

Some expressions, she says, are also just satisfying to say, such as “no manches!”, which she translates as “dang!”, as in: “No manches, I forgot my pencil case!”

She can also switch to standard English whenever she wishes, for example during her interview – as well as combining English and Spanish, an ability known as code-switching, meaning, mixing one’s languages to adjust to a given context. Research suggests that bilingual children can already code-switch at a young age.

The bigger story is, Spanish is an American language. Spanish has always, always, always been here – Phillip Carter

Carter, the researcher who studies language change in Miami, points out that this is not the first time English has been profoundly transformed by bilingualism. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, French entered Old English through loanwords. The mix, and other linguistic influences such as Latin, helped create the English we speak today.

“When you have bilingual situations like this, the minds and mouths of bilinguals do shape the language, and it often has effects that are long-lasting,” Carter says.

Regarding English and Spanish in North America, that evolution also has a long history, he notes: “English and Spanish have been doing a dance with one another in the United States since the colonial period,” he says. “The bigger story is, Spanish is an American language. It’s a language of the US, even though it’s not constructed that way in political terms. Spanish has always, always, always been here. And although the language itself sometimes gets lost [as families switch to using English], it has influenced the way people speak English.”

A woman holds a Venezuelan flag in Miami (Credit: Getty Images)

‘This is a new Spanish’

Despite that long history and profound impact, speaking US Spanish can still trigger negative reactions, whether from Spanish speakers who take issue with the English influence, or English speakers with racist attitudes. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, four in 10 Latinos report having experienced discrimination such as being criticised for speaking Spanish or being told to go back to their home country – although, more encouragingly, the same proportion had also experienced support. Peace also points out historical discrimination against Spanish speakers in the US on an institutional level, such as punishing children for speaking Spanish in schools.

“Most of the student population here at my university is Hispanic/Latino, which means that most of them speak Spanish. It’s kind of comforting knowing there are some people who will understand me if I speak either language or blend both,” says Mariana Mata, a 22-year-old student in global studies and Spanish at St Mary’s University. Her parents came to the US from Mexico in the 1990s, and she says her mother tongue and main home language is Spanish – though she and her brother use English and Spanish to converse between themselves, and with others. “Although there is so much hate and criticism towards Spanglish, it is one of my favourites because it shows people how our minds work differently,” she says.

Elaborating on some the criticism, she mentions a derogatory term used by some Latinos for other Latinos who don’t speak Spanish fluently. There has been a rising movement among young bilingual speakers to reclaim the term, including on TikTok, and push back against the implication that some ways of speaking Spanish are inferior to others. “It’s a very offensive word,” says Muñoz, who is also familiar with the term, and dislikes it. She points out that firstly, it’s not a person’s fault if they were not taught to speak Spanish; and secondly, US-born Latinos and Latinas may simply speak Spanish differently from their ancestors.

“This is a new Spanish. This is not the Spanish you grew up with. It’s not that I don’t speak it well. I just don’t speak it like you,” says Muñoz, addressing those who might take issue with her way of speaking it.

Among his students and their families, Cruz has also observed the opposite pressure: of families losing their Spanish as quickly as possible, to try and protect children from discrimination.

“If you have a good socio-economic status, you’re not looked down on for speaking the language,” he says, but the picture can look very different for more vulnerable families. In one case, one of his students had been awarded a full college scholarship, but the student’s mother did not understand this, and thought they would have to take out a loan. It turned out the student only spoke English, and his mother only spoke Spanish. Cruz, speaking Spanish to her, explained the good news, but also asked her how she and her son had got to the point of not sharing a language. He says she told him: “I thought I was protecting my son by not giving him anything that people around him can use to bully him.”

In his view, one thing we can all learn from Spanglish is to be more open to different ways of speaking, and to remember the ultimate goal is communication, not judgment. “There isn’t one way to speak Spanish,” Cruz notes. “Hey, Spanish might include some English – it might include some Portuguese, depending on where you are. There should be more acceptance of how people speak their Spanish, because at the end of the day, it is theirs.”

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