NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Researchers said the Spanish language spoken by many New Mexicans, their family members, and their ancestors is starting to disappear. People living in this region have been speaking the Spanish dialect for hundreds of years. Dr. Devin Jenkins, a linguist, said it’s a mixture of old Spanish words, Indigenous words, and English. The language can be found all over the state, primarily in northern New Mexico.

Jenkins said the language is fading away as older generations pass away and their younger relatives no longer learn the dialect. According to him, the only way to save it is to educate others on it.

“Its so much a part of so many people’s identity. To learn about it at the very least, even if we’re not learning to speak it, just to know about it and to know the origins and the history of that language in that area is a really special thing for a lot of people,” said Jenkins.

The language was developed in its unique way and, much of the time, does not match the Spanish taught in school. For example, the word for a dress to most Spanish speakers is a vestido. However, in northern New Mexico, it’s a túnico, which is an older Spanish word.

Jenkins co-wrote a research paper about the dialect’s history showing how the traditional Spanish met up with Indigenous words and English. They found the language could be gone within the next 50 years due to a generational shift; younger generations are mostly learning English.

Dr. Jenkins said because of this; many New Mexicans feel they don’t speak proper Spanish. However, he mentioned this is a valid language with its Spanish variety.