Cyber-Spanglish. Que horror! The clash of new technology and the Spanish language has given birth to such mangled terms as e-mailiar and surfiar the net.
In the interest of better communication, MCI has released a new English and Spanish Tecnogua (Technoguide) that defines and translates nearly 1,000 terms related to computers and communications technology.
“It’s a great resource tool to help bridge language and technology,” said Manuel Wernicky, MCI’s corporate communications manager for Latin America. “As far as we know, there’s nothing out there like it.”
Because computer technology has moved so quickly, it sometimes outstrips language. Spanish speakers often begin to use English words for the most common computer terms because English is so dominant on the Internet and there are no good Span sh translations available for some words.
Examples in the Tecnogua are: modem, Internet, fax, CD-ROM, hardware, beeper and mouse.
Some language purists argue that words such as “hardware” or “beeper” should be written according to Spanish phonetic and orthographic rules. “Hardware,” for example, should be written jardwer, and “beeper” as biper.
But MCI’s Wernicky said, “We wanted to keep the spelling of these words intact. We felt they were so common that if people were using them, they knew how to pronounce them.”
MCI, the nation’s second-largest long-distance company, assembled a team of linguists and technicians from across the United States and Latin America who spent 11 months sorting through such questions before producing the guide.
“We came to a consensus on each word and picked the standard Walter Cronkite-type word that was most used across the board, whether it be in Mexico, among Hispanics in the United States or Argentina,” said Wernicky, who is based in Atlanta.
One of MCI’s goals was to eliminate Spanglish - the mixture of English and Spanish - when perfectly acceptable, commonly understood words existed in Spanish.
Words that make MCI’s technoNoNo list include surfiar (to surf) the net. Make it navegar por la red, say the experts at Texas A&M International University and the University of Southern California.
Even though turning English words into Spanish is a natural part of the evolution of the language - beisbol (baseball) being a prime example - Wernicky said MCI wanted to offer an alternative to the mixture of both languages and come up with terms that could be commonly understood whether in Miramar, Fla., or Montevideo, Uruguay.
Not all linguists agree, however, on the use of Spanglish. “Some believe that the use of both languages to express thoughts and ideas enriches and adds diversity to the language,” said Kati Pletsch de Garcia, a professor of English, Spanish and linguistics at Texas A&M International University. “Others think the use of Spanglish ruins a language that dates from the 10th century.”
Even for those who don’t speak a word of Spanish, the guide is useful, because it has simple definitions in both languages of terms such as bandwidth, bit, byte, coaxial cable, ISDN and smart card.
Introduction of the Tecnogua also is an acknowledgment of the growing power of the U.S. Hispanic market and the rapid growth of Hispanic businesses.
The U.S. Hispanic population now stands at 28.2 million - 11 percent of the U.S. population, and the number of Hispanic businesses has grown by 76 percent in the past five years.
“The Hispanic market is a very important part of our overall business strategy,” Wernicky said. “Putting out this guide should help MCI, and it should help Hispanics.”
Hispanics also are making their presence felt on the Internet and as consumers of new communications technologies. Some 15 percent of Hispanic households have personal computers, compared with 22 percent for the general population, according to Simmons Research, but they are rapidly catching up.
Simmons found, however, that Hispanics still lag when it comes to signing up for online services. Less than 4 percent of U.S. Hispanics subscribe and less than 3 percent have used the Internet within the past 30 days, according to a 1997 Simmons study.
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