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Puerto Rican Spanish. Spanglish in Puerto Rico is a linguistic phenomenon commonly thought of as some sort of mix between Spanish and English.

Spanglish in Puerto Rico is a linguistic phenomenon commonly thought of as some sort of mix between Spanish and English. Used in a colloquial setting, Spanglish has been interpreted to mean different things: some believe that simply using an English word in a Spanish sentence is enough to qualify as Spanglish; while others think it involves the use of English grammar to make up Spanish sentences, and vice-versa. A third example of Spanglish is code-switching, basically the alternation of Spanish and English clauses or sentences when speaking.

In Puerto Rico, Spanglish has seen extraordinary growth in recent decades. As an overseas territory of the United States since 1952, the influence of English on the island is extensive, and as a result has permeated Spanish, the island’s main language. American films, as well as technical terms (like ‘to tweet’) for which there is no translation play their part in creating Spanglish. Additionally, many Puerto Ricans have gone to the mainland US, particularly New York, and later returned to the island bringing with them the language and culture of Spanish Harlem.

As mentioned above, there are different types of Spanglish. Perhaps the most simple is using an English word in a Spanish sentence, despite there being a perfectly acceptable Spanish translation. Examples of some sentences are “mañana voy a la city” and “vivo en un flat pequeño” where ‘city’ and ‘flat’ are both used instead of ‘la ciudad’ and ‘el piso’ respectively. Then there are English words that have been hispanicized into a Puerto Rican language form, such as ‘lonchar’ meaning ‘to have lunch’ instead of ‘almorzar’; ‘enjoyar’ meaning ‘to enjoy’; and even ‘uanmortaim’ (one more time) instead of ‘otravez’. These are only a few examples, but the colloquial nature of Spanglish means there are hundreds more, some more common than others.

The use of English grammatical structures is another feature of Spanglish. Put simply, a person speaks in Spanish, but uses the English way of saying it. For example one might say “yo hago no hablar español muy bueno” – in this sentence the English way of forming a negative sentence has been used, “I do not speak…”, which is different from the simple Spanish way of placing ‘no’ in front of a verb. The same is true vice-versa, whereby a Puerto Rican might say “I no speak the English very good”. More examples of these Anglicisms include saying “hacer sentido” instead of the correct “tener sentido”; “ser 20 años” for “tener 20 años”; and “salvar tiempo” for “ahorrar tiempo”.


Code-switching is the other form of Spanglish, whereby a person switches between Spanish and English in the same sentence. Take these examples: “I’m sorry, I can’t come to the party tomorrow porque tengo que estudiar” and “Lo siento, no tengo las llaves porque I left them at home” are both sentences that contain clauses in the two languages. It seems that most people use code-switching either to emphasize a particular point, or to facilitate understanding. When it’s the latter, code-switching can aid comprehension of certain concepts by using the language in which a particular clause is easiest. For example, a Puerto Rican might say the first part of the sentence in Spanish, because that bit involves a very complex structure in English, and then vice-versa with the second part of the sentence.

There is some debate among linguists as to what constitutes Spanglish. Everyone has a different idea about what it is and isn’t, but since Spanglish is a relatively new phenomenon, without any preconceived definition, it’s more or less up to an individual themself to make up their own minds.