Latino, Latino/a, Latin@, or Latinx?

I was recently asked the following question in my Spanish for Medical Professionals online class about using gender-neutral and inclusive terms in the Spanish language:

I was wondering, with regards to pronouns and noun endings, what do we do when we want to be gender neutral/inclusive (i.e. not having masculine being default for mixed groups, being neutral when not wanting to assume someone’s gender, variations for nonbinary/genderqueer folks)?

This question generated quite a bit of discussion – and I hope it continues in the comments section as we all continue to learn from each other.

Latino

Traditionally, one would use the masculine pronouns and noun endings in mixed groups. For example, in a group of boys and girls, you would say chicos. Some people may say chicos and chicas – but many consider this redundant. Let’s take the word Latino, which is someone of Latin American descent. The term Latinos originally included both males and females.

Latino/a

You may also see words that could have a masculine and feminine ending written as o/a or os/as. For example, you may see chico/a or chicos/as  – or Latino/a or Latinos/as. This is to show that the same base word could have different endings depending on the gender of the person.

Latin@

Sometime in the 90s, the word Latin@ came into being (as well as chic@s, muchach@s,  etc.) to be more inclusive. The @ represented the “o” and “a” ending combined together to include females. The Spanish word for this symbol – @ – is arroba.

Latinx

In the last several years, the term Latinx  (pronounced la-teen-ex) is being used more. Latinx is intended to be more inclusive of any gender. The article, Why People are Using the Term ‘Latinx’ from HuffPost dives into the origins and uses of word more thoroughly. NPR also covered this topic a few years ago. Latinx: The Ungendering of the Spanish Language is well worth the 11 minute listen.

“The x [in Latinx], is a way of rejecting the gendering of words to begin with, especially since Spanish is such a gendered language,” explains Jack Qu’emi, from the article and podcast Writer Jack Quémi explains the meaning of Latinx.  The article further discusses that similar to the use of they/them/their pronouns in English (instead of the gendered pronouns he/him/his and she/her/hers), the term Latinx is an attempt to include non-binary people, those who are neither male nor female.

But are all Spanish-speakers on board with the various terms and the attempt for the language to be more inclusive? According to a recent article by NBC News, many consider “Latinx” to be elitist. “As the term gains traction, some scholars are pointing out that there are Latinos who don’t see themselves reflected in the word. Some see Latinx as an elitist attempt to erase a history of more traditional gender roles, or as a distraction from other pressing issues facing Latinos in the United States.”

Titles

So how do you “title” folks? Most people will still probably prefer Señor (Mr.),  Señora (Mrs. or older woman), or Señorita (Miss or younger woman). If a person does not clearly fit into one of these categories and is on the younger side, you may want to consider the term joven (young person), which can be used for any gender. Unfortunately, there is not an equivalent gender-neutral word in Spanish for a person who is older.  The takeaway? If you’re unsure, ask which the person prefers. If you have an information form to fill out for your office or workplace, you can do this easily by putting a question on the form asking about preference for title or to be called by the person’s first name.

I am so confused!

Are you now more confused than ever? As a Spanish student, are you not sure how to speak and write masculine and feminine words now? Having been learning and teaching the Spanish language for the past 30 years, it seems to me that the vast majority of Spanish-speakers still use the masculine and feminine ends without giving it a second thought. In fact, many Spanish-speakers may not have even heard about the –@ or –x endings. These endings are often used among the young, progressive, and university-educated Spanish-speaking population. I encourage you to speak with the native Spanish-speakers around you and see what they prefer and why.

As any language evolves over time, Spanish is evolving and it is important to be aware of this. In my opinion, it is fascinating to see attempts to change fairly quickly to include more gender-neutral and inclusive terms in just the last few decades. It will be interesting to see where the discussion and regular usage leads!

Tara’s Favorite Sites to Learn Spanish

There are so many great sites out there to learn Spanish these days! Where does one even start? To help you narrow down your options, I have compiled a list of my favorite sites, broken down by the four language skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Happy learning!

Listening

Spanish Proficiency Exercises

www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/ 

“Spanish Proficiency Exercises is a compilation of brief video clips in which native speakers of Spanish from various locations throughout Latin America and Spain demonstrate various language tasks. The objective of the exercises is to provide students of Spanish with the necessary tools to be able to talk about the same topics in Spanish.” The videos are organized into 6 levels: Beginning, Intermediate-A, Intermediate-B, Advanced-A, Advanced-B, Superior.

Learn Spanish by Streaming Videos

Language Learning with Netflix (Chrome Extension)

“Improve your skill on your own, effectively and enjoyably, by watching films and series in the language you study. Subtitles are shown in two language, allowing you to compare the original audio and text with a translation in your language. The extension allows you to listen to subtitles one at a time, and to change the playback speed. There is also a pop-up dictionary, and the extension suggests the  most important words for you to learn.”

TIP: Put on Spanish subtitles and/or Spanish audio on movies (available on majority of DVDs/Blu-Rays) and now on many streaming services.

Speaking

Spanish Conversation Groups

Learning Spanish vocabulary only goes so far. To truly become fluent, you need to practice the conversation piece. Check out this site to see if there is a Spanish Conversation Group that meets near you.

www.meetup.com/topics/spanish/

Online Spanish Tutors

Do you prefer a customized, one-on-one learning experience? Visit the following websites to find an online Spanish tutor.

www.speakshop.org (Wonderful non-profit)
www.italki.com (1000s of Spanish tutors)

Reading

Read Children’s Stories in Spanish

Children’s stories are some of the best ways to improve your reading comprehension. When you are done with these, go to your local library and check out more Spanish stories.

www.thespanishexperiment.com/stories

Current News in Spanish

News in Slow Spanish features native speakers discussing current events and cultures. They slow the audio down so that Spanish students can practice their reading and listening comprehension at a pace they can understand. They also offer dialects from Latin America and Spain.

www.newsinslowspanish.com 

TIP: There are many free Spanish news resources on the web, such as GoogleBBCUnivisionTelemund

Writing

Make Spanish Accents & Characters

There are so many ways to write the Spanish characters. The best way is to Google, “how to write Spanish accents on (name of your computer or device).” But this site allows you to write Spanish characters on any device with internet access!

spanish.typeit.org

An App to Practice Spanish Writing

HelloTalk is essentially a social media site built specifically for language learners. Connect with Spanish natives all around the world. They teach you Spanish while you teach them English.

www.hellotalk.com

Other Sites to Learn Spanish

Verb Practice 
www.conjuguemos.com

Comprehensive Spanish Learning Site
www.StudySpanish.com

Duolingo: FREE Language Tutorial 
www.duolingo.com

Google Translate (OK for small phrases)
translate.google.com

Favorite Online Dictionary (with Discussion Area)
www.WordReference.com

Do you have others you would like to add to this list of great Spanish learning sites? Make sure you comment below or send me your suggestions here.

Learn a Language Without Leaving Home

The best way to learn a foreign language is through immersion – ideally for at least a year in a foreign country that speaks that language.  Realistic? Not for most of us. So what are other ways one can learn another language? Luckily, online language learning has come a long way in recent years. A simple Google search shows there are many online resources. For beginners, online courses are helpful as the instructor has already chosen some of the best resources and combined them into specific learning paths. Plus, online resources are a fraction of the cost of immersion! 

1)  Self-Paced Language Courses

The most basic language courses are self-paced, which allows you to work wherever you want – whenever you want   They often provide interactivity with native-speaking voices, exercises with immediate feedback and links to a large variety of web resources. 

In addition to learning the basics through self-paced general language courses, there are now more industry-specific courses – called occupational language courses.  Instead of learning the entire language, perhaps you need a starting point for a specific challenge. For example, a front desk person in the healthcare industry finds language challenges with Spanish-speaking patients. She isn’t interested in fluency – at least not yet – but wants to know a few Spanish phrases to gather information and comfort people coming to the clinic.  Online resources and courses are now available specifically to help her with this language need.   

2)  Instructor Led Courses

Many universities and community colleges offer their own online language courses.  Instructor led courses generally have a set pace and more accountability with specific start and end dates, group discussions and homework. These options are great for students who find more structure helps their learning. Many instructor-led online courses also now include occupational courses to help workers in a specific industry learn what they need for their specific job.

3)  Supplementary Online Resources

What if you already have taken a language course, but you just need to practice it?  With the web, you now can find native Spanish speaking tutors, such as www.SpeakShop.com or www.italki.com to help you practice your language skills in the comfort of your own home.  Need help with vocabulary and verb conjugations? Try the many language flashcard sets at www.quizlet.com or get instant grammar feedback at www.conjuguemos.com.  Want to practice your Spanish listening skills?  Try the Spanish Proficiency Exercises at the University of Texas at Austin or News in Slow Spanish.  How about joining a language learning community online?  Try LiveMocha or Duolingo

4) Watch a Movie

Don’t forget one of the easiest and cheapest ways to “immerse” yourself – movies from the comfort of your own couch!  Most streaming services, like Amazon Prime or Netflix, have subtitle and audio options where you can listen in Spanish or read the Spanish subtitles. Or you could go “old school” and put in a DVD/BluRay to choose Language or Subtitles options for your selected language. 

And if you do really feel like getting out of your house for a bit, see if there is a local Conversation Group. If you are in a university town, there are probably Conversation Groups already set up that you could join. Just call your local Language Department and see. Or check out meetup.com. In the Spanish language alone, there are over 2200 Spanish Conversation groups around the world. See if there is one near you. Whatever you do, just enjoy the language learning experience and realize that language skills are keys to opening up many new doors.

How to Make Spanish Accents

But just how do I make the á é í ó ú ñ ¿ ¡ ?

There are many ways to make Spanish accent marks and characters on your computer or device.  It depends on what computer or device you are using, as it is different for PCs, Macs, iPads, Chromebooks, etc. Even on a PC, for example, there are several ways you can do it, including changing your keyboard and using ALT + numbers.

The best way is to google it, such as “how to make Spanish accents on a ___PC/iPad/Mac, etc._____”  You can then choose what is best for you. I have started out giving you some ideas, but this is in no way a complete list.

spanish.typeit.org

The easiest way that works for anybody with internet access on any device is to go to spanish.typeit.org. Just type in what you want in Spanish (including letters with accents, ¿, ¡, ñ, etc.) and then cut and paste into where you need them.

Chromebook

Follow this link for a great description on setting up your International Keyboard. You can also get an add-on for your Chrome browser.  There are many available, so just find one that works well for your needs.

MAC

With newer Macs, typing vowels with accents is simple: just press and hold the letter you want to accent. A pop-up menu will come up with all the possible accents. Select the accent you need or press the corresponding number.

For ñ, press and hold the alt key (sometimes known as option). While still holding alt/option, press n. Wait for the ˜ symbol to appear (highlighted in yellow). Now let go of both keys and press n again.

For the upside down question mark, press and hold alt/option + shift. While holding alt/option + shift, press ?.

The keyboard combination for the ¡ symbol may change depending on which computer you’re using. To find it on your keyboard, press and hold the alt/option key. While still holding alt/option, play around pressing a few keys. You’ll see a few random symbols come up, like ∆º¬øæ… Keep going until you find ¡

Smart Phones

To type Spanish accents and characters on your smartphone, just press and hold the letters or symbols and a menu will pop up. Find the character you want and you are set to go!

Microsoft Office

If you’re using Microsoft Office, you can add accents to vowels by pressing and holding the following keys together: Ctrl, followed by ‘ and then the vowel you want to accent.

For example, to put an accent over the letter a, press: Ctrl + ‘ + a =  á

PCs

Here are some very thorough directions on how to install the international keyboard your PC.

ASCII Symbols

On my PC, I personally use a method I have used for over 20 years – the ASCII symbols. (There are easier methods depending on your device, but this one works for me.)

You must have a keyboard with a number pad with the “num lock” enabled.

If you want to write an ñ first we have to know the ASCII code which is alt 164.

To write an ñ press and hold the ALT key. While holding down the ALT key, enter the 3-digit decimal code for the extended ASCII character you want to generate (in this case 164) then release the ALT key. What I like about this method is that you should be able to do this in any program.

Here are the different ASCII symbols.

á  160      é 130   í 161 ó  162 ú 163

ñ  164     ¿ 168     ¡173

 

As I said at the beginning, there are so many ways to add accents on vowels or other Spanish characters. If you did not find a system that works for you or your device, Googling it usually does the trick!