Digging A Little Deeper Into Spanglish


Wherever you go in the world, you will find that certain places adapt or evolve the official language to make it specific to their region. This is usually done with the use of slang terms, but in the case of Puerto Rico, it was the mixture of English into the native Spanish that created something now referred to as Spanglish. The rise of this dialect can be traced back to the early 1950’s, which was when Puerto Rico became a territory of the US. As the American influence grew, the language changed to reflect that, and Spanglish was born.

What exactly is Spanglish, though, and what differentiates it from Spanish and English? There can in fact be three different answers, depending on who you ask. For some, it is the use of common English words in the middle of a sentence, even when that word being used actually has a perfectly usable Spanish word that can be used in its place like ‘Se hace delivery’ instead of ‘se hace entrega’ to say we deliver. There are of course instances where English words are used that do not have a correlating Spanish word. For example, if you were talking about having a crush on someone in Spanish, you have a dozen words you can use that are similar to crush but none that literally translates into it, so, often the English word is used. Other English words are given a little bit of a Hispanic twist, such as using ‘lonchar’ instead of ‘almorzar’ when talking about lunch or ‘parkiando’ instead of ‘estacionando’ when talking about parking.

The next version of Spanglish is one that is a little confusing to explain, not to mention difficult to understand if you are all about the proper use of grammar. In this version of the language, English grammar is used to create a sentence in Spanish. For example, in Spanglish you would find a way to say that you do not speak English by using grammar that starts the sentence with “I don’t speak…” If that same sentence were to be spoken in the traditional Spanish language, it would essential translate as “I no speak…..”

The final of the three methods of Spanglish involves what is known as code-switching. What essentially happens here is that part of the sentence is in English, with the other part being in Spanish. The feeling is that this is done to draw particular attention to one part of the sentence or other. A lot of it comes down to the complexity of the sentence structure, with many Puerto Ricans choosing to use Spanish for the more complex part of the sentence.

In the grand scheme of things, Spanglish is still very new when compared to other languages. But is it a language? The term was initially coined in the 1940’s by a Puerto Rican linguist named Salvador Tio. Back then, it was simply used to explain English words being used in the middle of a sentence, but as you can see, it has evolved since then. There really appears to be no right or wrong way to speak Spanglish, with each individual using one of the three different styles in a completely arbitrary fashion. Listen carefully, and you may even hear all three being used in a single conversation.