What the heck is “Spanglish”?
Tim and I were walking down the sidewalk looking for a quick, inexpensive place to eat. We really wanted breakfast that wasn’t going to cost $30.00 (again). We heard that a local shopping plaza had just the place – local, cheap, and tasty.
All of a sudden, I stopped and stared above the businesses. Tim also looked up puzzled, trying to figure out what in the world I was looking at. It was a large bulletin sign that said:
"Estas Open Para Probar Cosas Nuevas? - AT&T"
Wondering where we were? The place was Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.
I do not consider myself very good in Spanish but I get by – unless someone starts jabbering at me directly, at which point I freeze and panic – Ha Ha. But I stood there trying to figure what the heck the word “open” meant; I had no trouble with the rest of the sentence. Then it dawned on me – what I was looking at was Spanglish! I laughed and explained to Tim what caught my attention.
The translation of the sign was “Are You Open to Try New Things? – AT&T”. HA!
That was our first exposure to Spanglish in Puerto Rico. During the rest of our visit, we found it everywhere. In fact, on one occasion, we witnessed two tour guides conversing, one of them was asking things in Spanish, while the other was answering him in English – crazy!
In case you’re curious, Spanglish is a real term. It was coined by a Puerto Rican linguist, Salvador Tió, to describe Spanish spoken with some English words thrown in. That bulletin board we saw, was certainly a great example of Spanglish.
You probably already know that the official languages of Puerto Rico are both Spanish and English and you may even know that Spanish is used to teach in schools and is much more prevalent than English. But did you know that Puerto Ricans don’t speak true Spanish? Instead, they speak Spanglish and in fact, someone speaking pure Latinate Spanish is considered “stuck up” or unapproachable.
Puerto Rico is considered by many to be a poor place to learn Spanish – too bad – because many, many English words are thrown in. The funny thing was that often, I didn’t even recognize them as English words because they were pronounced with a local Spanish accent – bizarre!
Another thing that we noticed about Spanish in Puerto Rico was that many Puerto Ricans, when they hear an English-speaker trying to say something in Spanish, instantly switch to English. This makes it kind of difficult to practice Spanish.
And if you think that Spanglish is just slag, think again. Many politicians and even educators use Spanglish and no one even gives it a second thought.
Check out this video for example. You may not realize it but there are many English words thrown in by the speakers.
So, in some ways, it will probably be easier to learn Spanglish for us because we obviously already know the English words, but if we were to go to another Spanish-speaking country, we’d be in trouble – we would not know may of the proper Spanish words.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, there actually are Spanish Language schools in Puerto Rico but don’t ask me if they teach pure Spanish or Spanglish – I just don’t know.