Last week, students, professors and experts immersed themselves in the Spanish culture.
Temple hosted the Third International Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics, which included 35 presenters from universities across the country, on April 6 through April 8.
The conference focused on both the details of changes and the way they happen in different groups of Spanish speakers. It also addressed the connection between Spanish and other languages spoken in the United States.
According to Jonathan Holmquist, chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese and one of the key players in bringing the conference to Temple, 60 percent of students who take a foreign language at the university level enroll in Spanish.
To him, it seemed right to expose Temple students to the changes going on throughout the Spanish language.
“This conference is a study of Spanish in its social context and language in its social context, which is dynamic in the field of linguistics,” Holmquist said.
During one of the workshops, Ricardo Otheguy, a researcher at the graduate center of City University of New York, discussed the use of Spanish personal pronouns in New York. In New York City, more than 25 percent of the population is Hispanic. He pointed out the differences in pronoun use between Spanish speakers born in New York and those born in Hispanic countries.
Leniz Camacho, 35, an elementary school Spanish teacher in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey, said she could relate to Otheguy’s speech. She moved to the United States from Columbia four years ago.
“The influence of English in Spanish speakers is significant,” Camacho said. “I didn’t realize the differences in dialect were so different if a person was born in New York City, or born in a Spanish country.”
Senior Spanish major Josian Cubano said he attended Otheguy’s speech because it was required for his class, turn of the century Puerto Rican authors.
Being a second generation Puerto Rican, Cubano said he was amazed that Otheguy could spend an hour and a half discussing the breakdown of pronouns.
“It was really interesting, though,” Cubano said. “I had no idea how much English influenced the Spanish language. I had a general idea, but I didn’t realize how much of a factor it was. I’m looking forward to seeing what other factors affect my Spanish.”
Cubano also attended a presentation on attitude and discourse. Norma Corrales-Martin, a Temple professor in the Spanish and Portguese department, Mariadelaluz Matus-Mendoza of Drexel University and Cecilia Montes-Alcala of Georgia Institute of Technology led these lectures.
These presentations included the discussion of Spanish language attitudes in Philadelphia as well as a tutorial on how to switch bilingual blogs from Spanish to English and vice versa.
The conference’s keynote speaker was William Labov, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. During his speech, he discussed the benefits of using Spanish sociolinguistics as a strategic research site for the general linguistic theory.
According to Labov, once Spanish sociolinguistics is researched thoroughly, those findings can then be implemented into other research dealing with linguistics.
Holmquist said he felt that the three-day conference was successful because it exposed people to the different facets of the Spanish language.
“It is important to develop bilingual skills, including Spanish,” Holmquist said. “In the country, there are papers in English and Spanish, Chinese and Spanish, and Mayan and Spanish. It is important for everyone to realize the prevalence of Spanish around them.”
Rebecca C. Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.