For other uses, see Spanglish (disambiguation).

Spanglish (a portmanteau of the words "Spanish" and "English") is a name sometimes given to various contact dialects that result from interaction between Spanish and English used by people who speak both languages or parts of both languages. Spanglish is not usually considered a language itself, but instead a blend of Spanish and English lexical items and grammar. Spanglish is not a pidgin, because unlike pidgin languages, Spanglish can be the primary speech form for some individuals. Spanglish can be considered a variety of Spanish with heavy use of English or a variety of English with heavy use of Spanish. It can be more related either to Spanish or to English, depending on the circumstances. Since Spanglish arises independently in each region, it reflects the locally spoken varieties of English and Spanish.

The term was introduced by the Puerto Rican poet Salvador Tió in the late 1940s, when he called it Espanglish or Inglañol.[1] (from Español + English, and Inglés + Español, respectively)

History and distribution

In the late 1940s, the Puerto Rican journalist, poet, and essayist Salvador Tió coined the terms Espanglish (later shortened to Spanglish) for Spanish spoken with some English terms, and the less commonly used Inglañol (for English spoken with some Spanish terms).

After Puerto Rico became a United States territory in 1898, Spanglish became progressively more common there as the United States Army and the early colonial administration tried to impose the English language on island residents. Between 1902 and 1948, the main language of instruction in public schools (used for all subjects except Spanish language courses) was English. Currently Puerto Rico is nearly unique in having both English and Spanish as its official languages[2] (but see also New Mexico). Consequently, many American English words are now found in the vocabulary of Puerto Rican Spanish. Spanglish may also be known by different regional names.

Spanglish does not have one unified dialect—specifically, the varieties of Spanglish spoken in New York, Florida, Texas, and California differ. Spanglish is so popular in many Spanish-speaking communities in the United States, especially in the Miami Hispanic community, that monolingual speakers of standard Spanish may have difficulty in understanding it.[3] It is common in Panama, where the 96-year (1903–1999) U.S. control of the Panama Canal influenced much of local society, especially among the former residents of the Panama Canal Zone, the Zonians.

Many Puerto Ricans living on the island of St. Croix speak in informal situations a unique Spanglish-like combination of Puerto Rican Spanish and the local Crucian dialect, which is very different from the Spanglish spoken elsewhere. The same applies to the large Puerto Rican-descended populations of New York City and Boston.

Spanglish is spoken commonly in the modern United States, reflecting the growth of the Hispanic-American population due to immigration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Hispanics grew from 35.3 million to 53 million between 2000 and 2012.[4] Hispanics have become the largest minority ethnic group in the US. More than 80% are of Mexican descent. Mexican Americans form one of the fastest-growing groups, increasing from 20.6 million to 34.5 million between 2000 and 2012.[4] Around 58% of this community chose California, especially Southern California, as their new home. Spanglish is widely used throughout the heavily Mexican-American and other Hispanic communities of Southern California.[5] The use of Spanglish has become important to Hispanic communities throughout the United States in areas such as Miami, New York City, Texas, and California. In Miami a Spanglish familiarly known as "Cubonics" is spoken.[5]

Spanglish is known as bilingualism/ semi-lingual ism. The acquisition of the first language is interrupted or unstructured language input follows from the second language. This can also happen in reverse.[6]

Many Mexican-Americans (Chicanos), immigrants and bilinguals express themselves in various Spanglishes. For many, Spanglish serves as a basis for self-identity. However, many others believe that Spanglish should not exist and should be prohibited.[7] Spanglish is difficult because if the speaker has learned the two languages in separate contexts, then the speaker uses the conditioned system in which the referential meanings encoded in the two languages differ to a considerable extent. Those who were literate in their first language before learning the other and who have support to maintain that literacy are sometimes those least able to master their second language. Spanglish is part of Receptive Bilingualism. Receptive bilinguals are those who understand a second language but don't speak it. That is when Spanglish is used. Receptive bilinguals are also known as the productively bilingual, since in order to give an answer speaker must twice the mental effort in order to answer in English, Spanish or Spanglish.[8] Without first understanding the culture and history of the region in which Spanglish evolved as a practical matter an in depth familiarizing with multiple cultures. This knowledge, indeed the mere fact of one's having that knowledge often forms an important part of both what one considers one's personal identity and what others consider one´s identity.[9]

Spanglish has its own rules: #1 use the ping-pong method. When the speaker uses Spanglish he/she should try to go back and forth. For example: Yo fui a la store to buy unas bananas pero when I got to la tienda ya estaban sold out. #2 Drag the words like googlear, parkear/ parkiar, lunchear, textear, telefonear etc. (add the ear, iar at the end of the original word.) Finally when the speaker is in an uncomfortable situation he or she may use the most helpful tool "Rapid Aggressive Spanish (RAS) it does not matter what the speaker says he/she can say a song, the pledge of allegiance, your grandmother's recipe etc the key is to say it fast and loud".[10]


Spanglish patterns

Spanglish is informal and lacks documented structure and rules, although speakers can consistently judge the grammaticality of a phrase or sentence. From a linguistic point of view, Spanglish often is mistakenly labeled many things. Spanglish is not a creole or dialect of Spanish, because although people claim to be native speakers of Spanglish, Spanglish itself is not a language on its own, but speakers speak English or Spanish with a heavy influence from the other language. The definition of Spanglish has been unclearly explained by scholars and linguists despite being noted so often. Spanglish is the fluid exchange of language between English and Spanish, present in the heavy influence in the words and phrases used by the speaker.[11] Spanglish is currently considered a hybrid language by linguists—many actually refer to Spanglish as "Spanish-English code-switching", though there is some influence of borrowing, and lexical and grammatical shifts as well.[12][13]

The inception of Spanglish is due to the influx of Latin American people into North America, specifically the United States of America.[14] As mentioned previously, the phenomenon of Spanglish can be separated into two different categories: code switching or borrowing, and lexical and grammatical shifts.[15] Codeswitching has sparked controversy because it is seen, "as a corruption of Spanish and English, a 'linguistic pollution' or 'the language of a "raced," underclass people'".[16] For example, a fluent bilingual speaker addressing another bilingual speaker might engage in code switching with the sentence, "I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting porque tengo una obligación de negocios en Boston, pero espero que I'll be back for the meeting the week after"—which means, "I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting because I have a business obligation in Boston, but I hope to be back for the meeting the week after."


Calques are translations of entire words or phrases from one language into another. They represent the simplest forms of Spanglish, as they undergo no lexical or grammatical structural change.[17] The use of calques is common throughout most languages, evident in the calques of Arabic exclamations used in Spanish.[18]


Semantic extensions

Semantic extension or reassignment refers to a phenomenon where speakers use a word of language A (typically Spanish in this case) with the meaning of its cognate in language B (typically English), rather than its standard meaning in language A. In Spanglish this usually occurs in the case of "false friends" (similar to, but technically not the same as false cognates), where words of similar form in Spanish and English are thought to have like meanings based on their cognate relationship.[19]


Spanglish English basis and meaning Standard Spanish Meaning of Spanglish word in standard Spanish
actualmente actually en realidad currently
aplicación application (written request) solicitud application (of paint, etc.)
bizarro bizarre estrambótico valiant, dashing
carpeta carpet alfombra, moqueta folder
chequear to check (verify) comprobar, verificar
librería library biblioteca bookstore
mapear to mop trapear to map (rare)
parquear to park estacionar, aparcar
remover to remove quitar to stir
rentar to rent alquilar
wachale to watch out cuidado

An example of this lexical phenomenon in Spanglish is the emergence of new verbs when the productive Spanish verb-making suffix -ear is attached to an English verb. For example, the Spanish verb for "to eat lunch" (almorzar in standard Spanish) becomes lonchear (occasionally lunchear). The same process produces watchear, parquear, emailear, twittear, etc.[20]

Loan words

Loan words occur in any language due to the presence of items or ideas not present in the culture before, such as modern technology. The increasing rate of technological growth requires the use of loan words from the donor language due to the lack of its definition in the lexicon of the main language. This partially deals with the "prestige" of the donor language, which either forms a dissimilar or more similar word from the loan word. The growth of modern technology can be seen in the expressions: "hacer click" (to click), "mandar un e-mail" (to send an e-mail), "faxear" (to fax), "textear" (to text message), or "hacker" (hacker). Some words borrowed from the donor languages are adapted to the language, while others remain unassimilated (e. g. "sandwich"). The items most associated with Spanglish refer to words assimilated into the main morphology.[21] Borrowing words from English and "Spanishizing" them has typically occurred through immigrants.[22] This method makes new words by pronouncing an English word "Spanish style", thus dropping final consonants, softening others, and replacing certain consonants (i.e., M's, N's, V's) with B's.[22]



Spanish street ad in Madrid humorously showing baidefeis instead of the Spanish gratis (free).
Baidefeis derives from the English "by the face"; Spanish: por la cara, "free". The adoption of English words is very common in Spain.

Fromlostiano is a type of artificial and humorous wordplay which consists of taking Spanish idioms and translating their literal definitions word-for-word into English. The name fromlostiano comes from the expression From Lost to the River, which is a word-for-word translation of de perdidos al río; an idiom meaning that one is prone to choose a particularly risky action in a desperate situation (this is somewhat comparable to the English idiom in for a penny, in for a pound). The humor comes from the fact that while the expression is completely grammatical in English, it makes no sense to a native English speaker. Hence it is necessary to understand both languages in order to appreciate the humor.

This phenomenon was first noted in the book From Lost to the River in 1995.[23] The book describes six types of fromlostiano:

  1. Translations of Spanish idioms into English: With you bread and onion (Contigo pan y cebolla), Nobody gave you a candle in this burial (Nadie te ha dado vela en este entierro), To good hours, green sleeves (A buenas horas mangas verdes).
  2. Translations of American and British celebrities' names into Spanish: Vanesa Tumbarroja (Vanessa Redgrave).
  3. Translations of American and British street names into Spanish: Calle del Panadero (Baker Street).
  4. Translations of Spanish street names into English: Shell Thorn Street (Calle de Concha Espina).
  5. Translations of multinational corporations' names into Spanish: Ordenadores Manzana (Apple Computers).
  6. Translations of Spanish minced oaths into English: Tu-tut that I saw you (Tararí que te vi).

The use of Spanglish has evolved over time. It has emerged as a way of conceptualizing one's thoughts whether it be in speech or on paper.

Identity and Spanglish

The use of Spanglish is often associated with an individual's association with identity (in terms of language learning) and reflects how many minority-American cultures feel toward their heritage. Commonly in ethnic communities within the United States, the knowledge of one's heritage language tends to assumably signify if one is truly of a member of their culture. Just as Spanish helps individuals identify with their Spanish identity, Spanglish is slowly becoming the poignant realization of the Hispanic-American's, especially Mexican-American's, identity within the United States. Individuals of Hispanic descent living in America face living in two very different worlds and need a new sense of bi-cultural and bilingual identity of their own experience."This synergy of cultures and struggle with identity is reflected in language use and results in the mixing of Spanish and English." Spanglish is used to facilitate communication with others in both worlds, "…code-switching is not merely a random phenomena but rather a complex system composed of a variety." While Individuals believe that Spanglish should not be considered a language, it is a language that has evolved and is continuing to grow and affect the way new generations are educated, culture change, and the production of media.[24] Living within the United States creates a synergy of culture and struggles for many Mexican-Americans. The hope to retain their cultural heritage/language and their dual-identity in American society is one of the major factors that lead to the creation of Spanglish. [25]

Attitudes towards Spanglish

Speakers of standard forms of Spanish may at times denounce Spanglish as a corrupted dialect. In fact, Spanglish is not about necessarily assimilating to English—it is about acculturating and accommodating.[22] Still, Spanglish has variously been accused of corrupting and endangering the real Spanish language, and holding kids back, though linguistically speaking, there is no such thing as a pure or real language.[26] Presently, "Spanglish" is still viewed by most as a rather derogatory and patronizing word to its community because it seems like a "bastardized language". In reality, Spanglish has its own culture and has a reputation of its own.[27]

It is commonly assumed that Spanglish is a jargon: part Spanish and part English, with neither "gravitas nor a clear identity", says the author of Spanglish[28] and proponent of Spanglish, Ilan Stavans.[29] Use of the word Spanglish reflects the wide range of views towards the mixed language in the United States. In Latino communities, the term Spanglish is used in a positive and proud connotation by political leaders.[30] It is also used by linguists and scholars promoted for use in literary writing.[31] Despite the promotion of positive use of the term by activists and scholars alike, the term is often used with a negative connotation. People often refer to themselves as 'Spanglish speakers' if they do not speak Spanish well. The term Spanglish is also often used as a disparaging way to describe individuals that do not speak English fluently and are in the process of learning, assuming the inclusion of Spanglish as a lack of English fluency.[32]



The use of Spanglish by incorporating English and Spanish lyrics into music has risen in the United States over time. In the 1980s 1.2% of songs in the Billboard Top 100 contained Spanglish lyrics, eventually growing to 6.2% in the 2000s. The lyrical emergence of Spanglish by way of Latin-American Musicians has grown tremendously, reflective of the growing Hispanic population within the United States.[34]


See also



  1. Repeating Islands: News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts
  2. Nash, Rose. "Spanglish: Language Contact in Puerto Rico". American Speech. 45 (3/4): 223. doi:10.2307/454837.
  3. Ardila 2005, pg. 61.
  4. 1 2 Guzman, B. 2000 & US Census 2012
  5. 1 2 Rothman, Jason & Rell, Amy Beth, pg. 1
  6. Lopez, Angel (2013). "Spanglish from a neurologist point of view" (PDF). El Circulo. Universidad Computense de Madrid. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  7. "Towards New Dialects: Spanglish in the United States". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  8. "Does Speaking English And Spanish Make You Worse At Both Languages?". Fusion. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  9. Halwachs,, Dieter (1993). . "Poly-system repertoire and identity". Grazer Linguistische. pp. 39–43 71–90.
  10. FLAMA (2014-09-24), How to Speak Spanglish, retrieved 2016-03-06
  11. Montes-Alcala, Cecilia, pg. 98.
  12. Martínez, Ramón Antonio (2010). "Spanglish" as Literacy Tool: Toward an Understanding of the potential Role of Spanish-English Code-Switching in the Development of Academic Literacy (45.2 ed.). Research in the Teaching of English: National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 124–129.
  13. .Individuals, "communicate their thoughts and ideas using a combination of Spanish and English, often referring to this hybrid language practice as Spanglish." ref> Martinez, Ramon Antonio. Vol. Vol. 45. Austin: National Council of Teachers of English, 2010. 124-49. Print. No. 2.
  14. Morales, Ed (2002). Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America. Macmillan. p. 9. ISBN 0312310005.
  15. Ardila, Alfredo (February 2005). "Spanglish: An Anglicized Spanish Dialect". Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 27 (1): 60–81. doi:10.1177/0739986304272358.
  16. Bonnie Urciuoli, Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996), p. 38, cited by Arlene Dávila, Latinos Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), p. 168, and quoted in turn by Viviana Rojas and Juan Piñón, "Spanish, English or Spanglish? Media Strategies and Corporate Struggles to Reach the Second and Later Generations of Latinos." International Journal of Hispanic Media. N.p., Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.
  17. Stavans, Ilan (2000). "The gravitas of Spanglish". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 47 (7).
  18. 1 2 Montes-Alcala, pg. 107
  19. Montes-Alcala, pg. 105
  20. Rothman, Jason; Amy Beth Rell (2005). "A linguistic analysis of Spanglish: relating language to identity". Linguistics and the Human Sciences. 1 (3): 515–536. doi:10.1558/lhs.2005.1.3.515.
  21. Montes-Alcala, pg. 106
  22. 1 2 3 Alvarez, Lizette (1997). "It's the talk of Nueva York: The hybrid called Spanglish". The New York Times.
  23. Ochoa, Ignacio; Frederico López Socasau (1995). From Lost to the River (in Spanish). Madrid: Publicaciones Formativas, S.A. ISBN 978-84-920231-1-0.
  24. Rojas, Viviana, and Juan Piñón. "Spanish, English or Spanglish? Media Strategies and Corporate Struggles to Reach the Second and Later Generations of Latinos." International Journal of Hispanic Media. N.p., Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.
  25. Rothman & Rell 2005, pg. 527
  26. Sayer, Peter (24 March 2008). "Demystifying Language Mixing: Spanglish in School". Journal of Latinos and Education. 7 (2): 94–112. doi:10.1080/15348430701827030.
  27. Morales, Ed (2002). Living in Spanglish : the search for Latino identity in America (1. ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin's Pr. ISBN 0312262329.
  28. Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language (2003) ISBN 978-0-06008-776-0
  29. (Stavans, 2000b, p.b7)
  30. Zentella, 2008, p. 6
  31. Stavans, 2000a, 2000b, 2003
  32. Otheguy & Stern pg. 86
  33. H.G.Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, Ch. 12
  34. Pisarek & Valenzuela 2012
  35. Stavans 2014


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