The importance of being earnest: Mock Spanish, mass media, and the implications for language learners

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John Benjamins Publishing Company


Mock Spanish is a register in which Spanish words or phrases are used in otherwise English language texts or utterances to evoke humor, often indexing an unflattering image of Spanish speakers. This paper examines the occurrence of Mock Spanish in mass media, of interest in part because its use there cannot be mitigated so much as is possible in private speech by factors such as the speaker’s or writer’s intentions or relationships with addressees. Participants in previous studies have cited these factors as potential attenuators of Mock Spanish’s offensiveness. Mass media is also of interest for its role in the reproduction of elite discourses. This paper’s objective is to further engage the question of Mock Spanish as a form of racist discourse, and to examine the implications for those who are users of Spanish as a second language or are in the business of training second language users of Spanish.