Students learn ‘language of barrio’ in Chicano/a studies class

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Students who enroll in “Chicano/a Studies 482: Language of the Barrio” get the chance to examine the origin and features of informal, spoken Spanish in the Southwestern region of the United States.

“This class exposes students to spoken Spanish,” said Xocoyotzin Herrera, Chicano/a studies professor. “We narrow it down into two populations. Mexicans south of the border and Mexicans north of the border.”

The course, which was created by CSUN Professor Fermin Herrera, introduces students to the history of the Spanish language, from its evolution from Latin to its Iberian, Arabic and Gothic language influences.

Usually, Chicano/a Studies 482 is taught by Fermin Herrera, however, during the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 semesters, his son, Xocoyotzin Herrera has taught the class because Fermin Herrera is on sabbatical.

“My dad has been teaching this class for the last 20 years,” Herrera said. “This class is his brain child.”

The course includes an analysis of common colloquial forms of profanity and slang. Both Spanish and English usage among Chicanos is studied closely during the semester.

“I enjoy this class,” said Cristina Mitchell, junior child development major. “It’s interesting to learn about my language and where it came from.”

Mitchell said she has enjoyed learning about Nahuatl the most, and how it has influenced the way Spanish is spoken and written.

Usually, Chicano/a Studies 482 is taught by Fermin Herrera. However, during the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 semesters, his son, Xocoyotzin Herrera has taught the class while his father is on sabbatical.

Graduate student Steve Finch said he finds the class interesting because of the way the professor presents the material.

“The class is fun because he’s a laid-back professor,” said Cesar Ventura, junior business major. “There’s conversation. It’s not all lecture.”

As a culminating experience to finish the course, students give presentations featuring information presented throughout the semester.

“I’m doing my presentation on slang used in Reggaeton music,” said Ventura. “This music started 10 to 15 years ago in Panama, and combines Spanish, Panamenio slang and Boricua slang.”