Language Justice Curriculum

Chapter 3: Spanglish and Vocab


Welcome + Borderlands – 15 minutes 
Mind Blazing  – 40 minutes
Practice  – 35 minutes

Close – 15 minutes

  • To name and acknowledge Spanglish as a valid communication medium and an important part of many people’s lives
  • To recognize the importance of using exact language when interpreting
  • To practice and build interpreting vocabulary
Materials Needed
¡OJO! To complete the practice section of this agenda, facilitators will need to invite two guest speakers to speak for 10 minutes each. They can be recent immigrants who want to speak about their relationship with the dominant language or anyone who will speak on a topic related to language, identity, or growing up bilingual.
  • Gloria Anzaldúa quote cut out in segments
  • Laptop, projector, speakers
  • Mind Blazing activity words on small pieces of paper
  • Cut-outs of small, blank pieces of paper
  • Basket, bowl, or hat
  • Time-keeping device
  • Access to Las Cafeteras’ “La Bamba Rebelde” video


Notes for facilitators: Facilitators may set out quote segments before the session starts and number them accordingly in order to help with the flow of the exercise. Or, instead of reading the poem out loud, the group can watch and debrief the beginning of the Spanglish – CPC Language Justice Interpreter Toolkit video (https:// if9YRY).

Step One:

  • Facilitators welcome everyone to the practice session.
  • Facilitators review the goals of the practice session: To name and acknowledge Spanglish as an important part of our lives, recognize the importance of using language in an exact manner when interpreting, and to practice and build interpreting vocabulary.

Step Two:

  • Facilitators hand out segments of Gloria Anzaldúa quote to participants.
  • Facilitators ask participants to read each of their segments, in order, to the group.

“Somos los del español deficiente. We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestizaje, the subject of your burla. Because we speak with tongues of fire we are culturally crucified. Racially, culturally and linguistically somos huérfanos – we speak an orphan tongue…. So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language. Until I take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept as legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex and all the other languages I speak, I cannot accept the legitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate,while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me,my tongue will be illegitimate. I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish,white. I will have my serpent’s tongue….”
– Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Step Three:

  • Facilitators lead the group through a short discussion based on the quote.
  • Facilitators can have participants debrief in pairs or in the larger group, depending on group size and time availability.
  • Facilitators ask participants:
    • What feelings did this quote elicit?
    • What thoughts or ideas popped up?
    • After reading this quote, does a particular moment in your life come to mind?
      • What happened?
      • How did you feel in that moment?
      • What did you learn about yourself?
    • Any other comments?

Facilitators may speak to the realities of “broken” English or “pocho” Spanish being a part of everyday life for many Mexican-Americans or Latinxs. Facilitators may want to recognize that many of the participants may have feelings of inadequacy or simply “not being good enough” when it comes to language. Address these feelings and encourage participants to embrace their story. One of the reasons behind these sessions is to train young people and first or second generation immigrants. They are the ones who will carry on the legacy of the language justice interpreters who came before them.

MIND BLAZING – 40 minutes

Notes for facilitators: Be sure that you have the translations ready and/ or WordReference on hand. Again, we have chosen words that make sense to us in Western North Carolina. Feel free to add your own words and/ or translations. Thanks to Tufara Waller Mohammed for teaching us this exercise.

This activity will give the group an opportunity to practice and build interpreting vocabulary. Spanglish is a legitimate form of communication and many of us use it every day to communicate with our loved ones, family and at work. However, Spanglish is not the language of interpreting. An interpreter must be able to convey a message for people who only speak English, or Spanish, or who do not understand Spanglish. This activity will help in discussing some vocabulary and see how Spanglish might have crept into our daily lexicon. Interpreters do not have a lot of time to linger on one word, so this activity will be timed. Participants will only have 30 seconds to come up with an answer.

  • Facilitators lead group through three rounds of Mind Blazing.
  • Facilitators put folded pieces of paper with different words on them into a hat or basket.
  • Each person in the circle will pull out a piece of paper and have 30 seconds to come up with the translation of the word.
  • The person can choose to ask other members of the group to add or make suggestions for their translation.
  • After 30 seconds, the facilitator calls STOP.

Round One – Spanglish. Participants must give the correct translation in English and Spanish.

Aseguranza – Insurance – El seguro (médico, de auto, etc.)

El Sherif – Sheriff – El alguacil

Parqueadero – Trailer park – El vecindario de casa móviles

La Reca – Tow truck – La grúa

Traila – Trailer – Casa móvil o prefabricada

Haz clic en el link – Click on the link – Selecciona el enlace

Internet – Internet – El internet o la red

Textear – Text – Mandar mensaje de texto

Weeda – Weed eater – La cortadora de césped/ zacate

Las taxas – Taxes – Los impuestos

Round Two – Words that come up while interpreting in social justice spaces. Participants must give the correct translation for each word.

These words are offered to illustrate the activity. Facilitators may come up with their own definitions and/ or words to translate.

Social Justice – Justicia Social

Language Justice – Justicia de Lenguaje

Fracking – Fractura hidráulica

School-to-prison pipeline – Vía directa de la escuela a la prisión

Minería a cielo abierto – Strip mining

Queer – Queer


Alcaldía/ Ayuntamiento – City Hall

Preschool – Preescolar

Elementary School – Primaria

Middle School – Secundaria

High School – Preparatoria

High School – Bachillerato

Community College – Colegio Comunitario

College/ University – Universidad

PhD – Doctorado

Round Three – Participant-generated vocabulary words. This time, the participants will each give a word to be translated.

For this activity to be effective every participant should contribute a word.

  • Each participant should have a blank piece of paper.
  • Participants add their own words to the hat or basket.
  • Go around the circle again, this time pulling out vocabulary words added by participants.

Facilitators, remind participants they can continue this practice by creating a running glossary to use as a reference in their own practice as they gain more experience.

PRACTICE – 35 minutes

At this point, participants will have an opportunity to practice interpreting and using resources available to them. If there are no guests, facilitators should play a video or podcast.

Step One:

  • Facilitators group participants into pairs and ask them to sit with their partners.
  • Before beginning the practice, facilitators ask each pair to open the WordReference app or website.
  • Facilitators ask the pairs to share how they would like to receive information or help if their partner is struggling.
    • For example: Partner 1 prefers to get help via written word while Partner 2 prefers to get help by having words whispered to them while they interpret.

Step Two:

  • Guest speaker 1 will talk for 10 minutes while Partner 1 interprets and Partner 2 assists.
  • Guest speakers and partners switch after the 10-minute mark.
  • Guest speaker 2 will talk for 10 minutes while Partner 2 interprets and Partner 1 assists.

Step Three:

  • After both partners have had the chance to interpret for the speakers, facilitators call the group back together to debrief.
  • Facilitators ask participants:
    • How did that make you feel?
    • What was difficult?
    • What was easy?
    • How well did you work with your partner?

CLOSE – 15 minutes

Notes for facilitators: La Bamba is a very well-known song. If you do not have access to the video, you can still do this activity or you can pick another song that works best with your group. The idea behind this activity is to use art and music to engage people’s creativity.

To close, facilitators play the video “La Bamba Rebelde” by Las Cafeteras (https:// YY5cWw). After watching the video, facilitators ask participants to work in pairs so that each pair completes one verse.

  • Es la Bamba Rebelde. Es la Bamba Rebelde que cantaré. Porque somos ____________.
    Porque somos ____________ de ____________.
    ¡Ay! Arriba y arriba.¡Ay! Arriba y arriba y arriba iré.
    Yo no creo en ____________. Yo no creo en ____________.
    Yo _____________. Yo ___________.
  • Ya no llores llorona. Ya no llores llorona.
    Mi gente lucha contra ____________. Contra ____________ en ____________.
    ¡Ay! Arriba y arriba. ¡Ay! Arriba y arriba y arriba iré.
    Yo no soy ____________. Yo no soy ____________.
    Ni lo seré. Ni lo seré. Ni lo seré.
  • Que vivan ____________. ¡Que vivan! Que vivan ____________ de ____________.
    Porque ____________. Porque ____________. Lo haré. Lo haré.
    Pero arriba y arriba. ¡Ay! Arriba y arriba y arriba iré.
    Como ____________. Como ____________.
    Yo lucharé. Yo lucharé. Yo lucharé.

After all participants have completed a verse, facilitators go around the room and have them read (and/ or sing) their verses out loud.