My wife and her sister speak English like they are native speakers; however, they speak to each other primarily in their mother tongue—Korean—even when I, a close family member who doesn’t know the language, am in the same room or car with them. Out of annoyance, I came up with the word “Mexicanism.”
In spite of my state of mind when I coined Mexicanism, this word implies no value judgment. It simply refers to the practice of speaking a language other than the mainstream language of the locality, irrespective of whether one can or cannot speak the local language. The connotation of Mexicanism entirely depends on the context or the speaker or writer’s intent, for the word itself is neutral. One may ask: “Why not Koreanism?” My thinking was, just like the natives of the Balkan Peninsula need not be the only people who Balkanize a region, Mexicans need not be the only people who don’t always speak English in the United States. Since, from my standpoint, someone has to contribute their name, I chose to borrow from Mexicans rather than Koreans because, in America, Mexicans speaking Spanish is more in the public consciousness than is Koreans speaking Korean—you don’t hear “press two for Korean” very often when calling customer service on the phone.
To be sure, I believe one has the freedom to choose the language they speak anywhere. While a common language facilitates social cooperation, forcing a person of a different origin to speak our language is counterproductive—that will not assimilate people into our culture; it will only alienate them. However, freedom of language is different from multilingualism, which is a key element of identity politics, a poison to society under the guise of equality.
Therefore, practicing Mexicanism is a right; yet not everyone is pleased by it. An American who does not like Mexicans speaking Spanish in America may find himself practicing Mexicanism in China by speaking English over there, for instance. While people, regardless of nationality, don’t have the right not to be annoyed, it is something that we should consider out of respect for others.
Moreover, translating a foreign name into the language of the context where that name appears goes a long way with regard to respect and linguistic integrity. When writing a sentence in English, we cannot put a Spanish name in that sentence and pretend that name is English any more than we can pretend a Chinese name is English. Although a Spanish word looks more like English than a Chinese word does, it is still not English. Thus, to expect someone (especially an English speaker who doesn’t know Spanish) to mentally switch from English to Spanish when coming across a Spanish name and switch back to English past that word is inconsiderate of the reader and disrespectful of the English language. If I want to preserve the pronunciation of my name “Jose” in a sentence written in English, for example, I should translate it into something like “Hozay,” or I will go with the pronunciation “ge-o-s.”
In closing, I wish we could call a country’s primary language by the country’s name. Simplicity goes a long way and it sure is simple to cognize that American is spoken in America, English is spoken in England, Mexican is spoken in Mexico, and Spanish is spoken in Spain, etc., irrespective of the complex academic question about origins and the arbitrary decision as to how far back we should trace the origin when referring to a language.